Liftoff! Phillips, Rays soar to walk-off win

May 15th, 2021

After rapping a two-out, walk-off single to right field in the ninth inning Friday night, broke out a familiar game-winning celebration: his tilting, two-armed airplane impression that was made famous in Game 4 of the 2020 World Series.

This time, there was a slight modification.

“I learned my lesson when exhausting too much energy after being so excited,” said Phillips, who memorably hyperventilated during his boisterous celebration last October. “So I just gave a little airplane and I looked back and saw Kevin [Kiermaier] right behind me. And he said, ‘Not this time!’ Because he couldn’t catch me last time, so that was a little laugh.”

Phillips’ heroics lifted the Rays to a 3-2 comeback win over the Mets at Tropicana Field. A night that started with prolonged perfection from starter ended in a flurry of offense, which the Rays have been searching for of late.

“You want to find a way to get a win for [Glasnow],” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “We didn’t, but we didn’t get a loss for him, so we’ve gotta be pleased with that. The way Tyler’s throwing the ball tonight and just every time he’s taken it has been a lot of fun to watch.”

Indeed, as Glasnow made mincemeat of the Mets’ lineup in the early stages. He sent down 14 in a row to start, before yielding an infield single and a two-run homer in succession with two outs in the fifth. The Mets pieced together two more hits in that frame, but no more runs, and the Rays’ ace used those small failures to fuel him for innings to come.

“I guess the negative of that [fifth inning] kind of helped me understand what adjustment I had to make,” said Glasnow, who threw a career-high eight innings and struck out 10. “And I went back out in the sixth inning and I felt like I’d made the proper adjustments. … Glad I was able to go out there and let my leash go a little bit."

The Rays’ offense was on a leash through the first seven innings, thanks to an expert performance from Mets lefty David Peterson. From the second through the seventh, Peterson retired 17 batters in a row.

Then in the eighth, Mike Zunino stepped in and blasted a 2-0 fastball to the moon. Well, not quite, but it landed 450 feet from home plate, his third 450-foot-plus bomb of the season, more than any other Major Leaguer. Suddenly, the Mets’ lead was halved and the Rays had the jolt they needed to stage a comeback.

Kevin Padlo followed with a double for his first MLB hit, and then he came around to score on a two-out double down the left-field line by Manuel Margot. Tie game.

Pete Fairbanks relieved Glasnow in the ninth, stranding two to set the stage for bottom-of-the-ninth dramatics. The Rays loaded the bases with two walks and a single, and in came Joey Wendle to pinch hit with one out.

“I’m gonna be honest, I was sitting on deck thinking the game was over with Joey Wendle being up to bat,” said Phillips, expressing undying faith in his team.

It wasn’t to be, though, as Wendle stared at strike three down the chute from Mets reliever Aaron Loup. Phillips was next, and he knew he didn’t want to waste any time.

“He’s one of the best lefties in the game,” Phillips said of Loup, who pitched for the Rays last season. “I put him up there, regardless of what his numbers are; his stuff is nasty. So I wasn’t trying to be in the batter’s box too long against him. Regardless of where the ball was gonna go, I was swinging early, and luckily I was able to barrel something up."

The barrel went up and met Loup’s first offering. Once the ball landed, Phillips’ arms went up too, and airplane mode was activated.

What was nearly a head-scratching loss turned into one of the Rays’ most fun wins this season.

“It’s always very entertaining,” Glasnow said. “It’s nice to have Brett be the guy to walk it off because it’s always an eventful night."