Perhaps some viewers asked the same question at home, after they stopped screaming. Or crying. Or both.
What just happened?
From the perspective of the Rays, who stole an 8-7 win in Game 4 with one of the wildest Fall Classic finishes ever, everything that could go right, did, from Brett Phillips’ first hit in a month to Randy Arozarena stumbling his way to home plate with the winning run. From the perspective of the Dodgers, everything that could go wrong, did, from Chris Taylor’s fumble in center field to Will Smith’s whiff at the plate to Kenley Jansen being right next to the action -- yet somehow totally out of place.
“Ain’t no time to hang our heads,” Jansen said.
MLB.com’s highlight reel (the one atop this story), featuring multiple broadcast calls and camera angles, spans two minutes and 31 seconds. Here’s what it reveals:
The scoreboard shows a 7-6 Dodgers lead with two outs, runners at first and second base and a resurgent Jansen on the mound, back in a high-leverage role after an encouraging ninth inning the night before. At the plate was Phillips, a left-handed-hitting Rays outfielder who might have been unknown to many Dodgers fans watching at home, since he’d yet to take a World Series at-bat and wasn’t even part of Tampa Bay’s roster for the American League Championship Series.
At second base was Kevin Kiermaier, who’d shattered his bat so completely while hitting a single that he arrived at first base with only the handle in hand.
Kiermaier advanced when the Rays’ breakout star Arozarena walked on seven pitches. Even though he represented the winning run, the idea of intentionally walking Arozarena was voiced by Hall of Famer John Smoltz on the FOX broadcast, but a 92.2 mph cutter down the middle following a mound visit from Dodgers pitching coach Mark Prior announced that Jansen was going after the out.
With the count full, Jansen threw a slider off the plate and got a foul ball, then spiked another slider for ball four. Arozarena’s disappointment was evident. He wanted to swing the bat.
“Attack him, be aggressive with him, [but] can’t let him beat you there,” Jansen said.
Several times, Phillips looked at his bat and took a deep breath.
This was, by far, the biggest at-bat of his baseball life.
“Harold Reynolds and those guys [on MLB Network] said I didn’t have a hit since Sept. 25, which, it didn’t matter,” Philips said later. “I just felt confident being in the box.”
Jansen was in control of the at-bat with some help from plate umpire Chris Guccione, who called a pair of pitcher-friendly strikes to make it a 1-2 count. Jansen followed with his signature pitch, the cutter, bearing in toward Phillips’ hands. But Phillips put a good swing on it and muscled a base hit into center field.
It did not appear that Jansen broke Phillips’ bat like he did Kiermaier’s, but it was nonetheless an example of what can happen when a hitter puts the ball in play. The exit velocity, per Statcast: 82.8 mph.
“I just totally broke Kiermaier’s bat, and Phillips [hits] another ‘grenade’ single,” Jansen said. “I didn’t give up one hard hit. What can I do? Can’t do anything with that. I threw the pitches where I wanted to. Credit to the hitters.”
The baseball bounced into center field toward Taylor, who had started the game in left but moved over after starting center fielder AJ Pollock exited for Joc Pederson’s pinch-hit, go-ahead, two-run single in the seventh. In Saturday’s original lineup, Pollock was the designated hitter and Rawlings Gold Glove Award nominee Cody Bellinger the center fielder, but when Bellinger reported he’d awoken with a stiff lower back, those roles were flipped. Would Bellinger have fared better?
Taylor charged Phillips’ hit and the ball went off his glove.
“I’m not sure what happened in center, if [Taylor] looked up to see if Randy was going to try to go first to third or not,” Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner said.
The first of two errors occurred on the play, and things were about to get much worse.
As Taylor rushed to recover the baseball, Kiermaier scored the tying run and Arozarena sprinted around third base, waved home by Rays coach Rodney Linares only to stumble and fall.
“As soon as I saw Randy hit second and I saw the ball come up, I'm like, 'We should take a chance right here,’” Linares said. “It's mostly instincts, and, like everybody says, I send everybody. So it was a good send. We won the game."
“Totally agreed with the send,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “It would’ve been a bang-bang play from my vantage point, having not seen it on replay or video, had Randy not barrel-rolled between third and home.”
Meanwhile, Taylor relayed to first baseman Max Muncy, who threw the ball home to Smith. All Smith had to do was catch the baseball and Arozarena would have been out, and the game would have gone to extra innings. But Smith, unaware that the runner had fallen, tried to catch the ball and make a snap tag in one motion. The ball went off his mitt and rolled behind home plate, resulting in a missed-catch error because of the certainty that Arozarena would've been out either at home or third, in a rundown. Instead, Arozarena made it home and the Rays began to celebrate.
“Obviously, Will can't see that Arozarena fell,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “Unfortunately, it was like that ‘unperfect’ storm. Just unfortunate.”
Said Rays second baseman Brandon Lowe: “As soon as [Phillips] hit the ball, my heart was pounding a million miles an hour. I saw Randy trip. My heart stopped. I saw the ball go by him. My heart started pounding again. What a way to finish a ballgame.”
One replay showed a defensive breakdown beyond the obvious ones involving Taylor and Smith (neither of whom were available after the game to discuss the play). A home plate angle shows Arozarena take his dramatic tumble while Jansen is only a couple of feet away, backpedaling on the infield watching Taylor relay to Muncy.
Had Jansen been positioned properly, whether that meant backing up third base or home, in a position to see Arozarena, would it have made a difference? Could he have possibly alerted Smith to the fact that the runner was down in such a split-second fashion as to give the catcher time to secure the baseball? And had Jansen backed up home, could the Dodgers have salvaged an out on the play?
“It [doesn’t] matter,” Jansen said. “Tomorrow’s another day. We’re positive in there. We like the atmosphere in there. That’s what we do the whole year, we pick each other up.”
“If you look at the replay, [Arozarena] had the presence of mind to keep his eye on the ball,” Linares said. “So when he saw the ball leave [the home plate area], he didn't have to wait for me to tell him to go. I kept pointing and yelling at him in Spanish to go. … It's a lot of credit to him because he kept his eye on the ball, and then it was probably a magical moment, because he ended up kind of crawling to the plate and then just stomping on the plate. I kind of blacked out for a minute."
In the Dodgers' dugout, Roberts couldn’t believe it. He throws up his hands, takes his cap off his head and dejectedly leans over the dugout rail.
“This is tough and we've got to digest it, but we have to turn the page,” he said after watching the fifth game in World Series history end on a play involving an error. “Now it's a three-game series and we've got Clayton [Kershaw] going tomorrow and our focus has to turn to win tomorrow.”
Jansen added, “Can’t let this one beat us. Like I said, we’ve been here before. We’ve just got to let it go and come and play baseball [Sunday]. We know who we are. We know what we’re capable of and Tampa played hard today. Can’t let this beat ourselves.”
The teams will do it again Sunday night.
“Honestly,” Phillips said, “it’s just hard to believe right now that that just happened.”