What Just Happened?
World Series instant classic or favorite episode of “Clown Car Follies?”
Game 4 of the World Series was great for eight-and-a-half innings and then it turned into a Little League game.
The situation: bottom of the ninth, two out, bases loaded, nothing-hitting Brett Phillips batting as the last guy on Tampa Bay Ray’s manager Kevin Cash‘s bench, with the team down 7-6 and one out away from being down 3-1 in the series. Kenley Jansen had just brushed the front outside corner of the plate with a 94 mph tailing fastball to make the count 1-2. Even though the bases were full, Tampa looked cooked.
That’s when the most bizarre play in World Series history unfolded. Think Bill Buckner sucking helium while driving a clown car on to the field.
Phillips had just shot home plate umpire Chris Guccione a look after the called second strike. But instead of going just a little farther outside, catcher Will Smith and Jansen try to go up in the zone. The replay failed to show if it was Smith’s idea or Jansen’s. All I do know is standard practice is to try to make the batter chase after a pitch just a little more outside of the one that was just called a strike. But, no. Smith sets up high and middle in. Jansen misses the target by six inches for not the first time in the inning and Phillips singles to right. Kevin Kiermaier, who got on base with the shattered stump of his handle still in his hands earlier in the inning, races around third and scores. Center fielder Chris Taylor, who had been the co-hero, scoring the go-ahead run just minutes before, now lets the ball hit off the heel of his glove. Randy Arozarena, who had multiple chances to take Jansen deep earlier in the inning, but didn’t, then does a barrel roll down the third base line trying to score.
Let’s test your baseball knowledge. Where do you go if you’re the pitcher and runners are on base and there’s a base hit? Behind the catcher, right? Rigggghhhhtt?
Nope. If you’re Kenley Jansen, you stand in the middle of the diamond watching the game.
Once Taylor picks up the ball, he fires a strike to first baseman Max Muncy, who throws another strike to Smith. But Smith goes to swipe Arozarena not realizing that Arozarena is trying to duck walk back to third. Ball’s on the ground. Jansen isn’t any help because he’s nowhere near where he’s supposed to be. Arozarena realizes the rundown he thought he was going to be in isn’t happening, turns for home and slides in safe, grinning the grin of the man who just got away with something.
Ball game. Four errors. One play. Two of them on the scoreboard. Dodgers lose. Tied series.
Phillips afterward told FOX, “It’s hard to believe that just happened.”
It sure is, especially when your opponent just imploded and looked like a bunch of seven-year-olds on a dirt track in Provo. Phillips knew one thing. He got a gift. “I was able to get a good pitch,” he said.
Damned near impossibly good, actually.
Watching Phillips airplane his way around the outfield though, I gotta agree with something else he said.