Don’t worry. You’re not the only one who is still stunned.
We made it through the night (somehow) and it is now Sunday morning. There will be a Game 5 tonight, and there will at least be a Game 6 on Tuesday. There will be more baseball. But for now, I’m just like you. Trying to figure out what happened last night.
The Dodgers were one strike away from taking a commanding 3-1 series lead in the World Series. They were one strike away from being just one win away from a championship. Now, the series is tied at two a piece and it is officially a best-of-3 series.
So, I’ll ask the question everyone has been asking. What the hell happened?
Though painful, let’s take a look back at the ninth inning and try to figure out where it all went wrong.
The Dodgers turned to Kenley Jansen in the bottom of the ninth. LA had a one-run lead after a crazy back-and-forth battle with the Rays. Though Brusdar Graterol pitched in the eighth and made only seven pitches, Jansen was the right man for the job in the ninth.
Prior to last night, Jansen had looked great going back to the Atlanta series. Over his four previous outings, he allowed only one run, a solo homer in Game 3 of this series. Aside from that, he had been perfect. His velocity was up, his cutter had life, and he looked like the Jansen from years ago. At the time, it was a smart move.
At the time, everything made sense.
Jansen made quick work of the first batter of the inning, striking out Yoshi Tsutsugo on five pitches, with the last two pitches being swinging strikes, including a 94-mph pitch on the final one.
One down. Two to go.
Kevin Kiermaier then followed, wasting no time. He singled on the first pitch, shattering his bat into pieces. The ball was nearly caught, but he reached safely with a one-out single. Joey Wendle followed, flying out to left field.
Two outs. One out away from the win.
Arguably the best hitter on the planet stepped up, as Randy Arozarena represented the game-winning run at the plate. It seemed like the smart move to try and throw him pitches outside the zone, hoping Arozarena doesn’t tie the game or beat you. However, Jansen quickly jumped ahead in the count 1-2. One strike away. One strike away from taking a 3-1 series lead. He couldn’t put him away, walking him to put the tying run on second base and the go-ahead run at first.
Brett Phillips then stepped into the box. A guy who hadn’t had an at bat in 17 days was in the batters box. This was exactly who the Dodgers wanted at the plate. After three pitches, the Dodgers were yet again one strike away. One strike away from a commanding 3-1 series lead. One strike.
Then, chaos followed.
Phillips connected on a 92-mph cutter on the middle-inside of the plate. The ball rolled into center field, and the game was tied.
What happened next was unlike any finish to a Major League Baseball game I’ve ever seen. Chris Taylor, one of the best all-around defenders in baseball, bobbled the ball. Cody Bellinger, who normally plays center field, was DH today, as he was having problems with his back. Instead of a Gold Glove winning center fielder out there, it was Taylor.
He misjudged it. Just like that, Arozarena was rounding third base and headed home. Taylor hit Max Muncy on the cutoff, who then fired a throw in to the catcher Will Smith. Arozarena tripped and fell while rounding third and he was clearly going to be out. We were going to head to extra innings.
Only, Smith missed it. Smith didn’t know Arozarena tripped, so he was trying to do a sweep tag with the ball as quick as possible. The ball deflected off his glove. Jansen was nowhere to be found behind him. He wasn’t backing up Smith. Instead, he was hanging midway between home and third.
The ball got away, and the Rays won. Series tied. Just like that.
I’m still at a loss for words. I can’t believe it. But, that’s baseball. It’s why it’s the greatest sport out there. Until you record that final out, anything can happen. It’s a fresh three-game series now.
May the best team win.