The Rays Fall Short, But Win an Epic Game
The Rays flew to Arlington, Texas, for the World Series to face the Los Angeles Dodgers. Los Angeles was a juggernaut. They were the only team in the league to finish with a better record than the Rays during the regular season, going 43-17. They had several All-Stars, led by a trio of former MVPs in Clayton Kershaw, Mookie Betts, and reigning NL MVP Cody Bellinger. This team was going to be a tough team to beat. The Dodgers took Game 1, but the Rays fought back in Game 2 to even the series. Los Angeles responded with a win in Game 3, setting the stage for a wild Game 4.
The ball was flying out of Globe Life Field in Game 4. Justin Turner and Corey Seager hit early homers to take a 2-0 lead. Randy Arozarena responded with his record-setting ninth home run of the postseason to cut the deficit in half. An RBI single by Max Muncy regained the two-run lead, but Hunter Renfroe hit a bomb to get it back. After the Dodgers extended the lead to two runs again, Brandon Lowe smacked an opposite-field three-run home run to give the Rays their first lead of the night in the bottom of the sixth. Joc Pederson's two-run single would give the Dodgers back the lead in the top of the seventh. Kevin Kiermaier knotting things up again, hitting a solo home run in the bottom of the seventh. With two strikes and two outs in the top of the eighth, Seager blooped a single into left field to bring home the go-ahead run, giving the Dodgers a 7-6 advantage.
Needing three outs to close the game, the Dodgers turned to Kenley Jansen to finish the game. A one-out single by Kevin Kiermaier and a two-out walk by Randy Arozarena put runners on first and second base. Kevin Cash opted for pinch-hitter Brett Phillips to come up clutch. With two strikes on him, Phillips lined the pitch into center field. The ball was guaranteed to score Kiermaier, but Chris Taylor could not field it cleanly. As the ball rolled away, Arozarena kept running. Taylor retrieved the ball, hit his cutoff man, and it looked as if Arozarena was dead at the plate after he'd fallen coming down the line. Will Smith missed the catch, allowing Arozarena to slide into home and slap it several times. The team chased Phillips into the outfield to celebrate the walk-off, capping one of the best World Series games of the modern era.
Unfortunately, that's as close as the Rays would get to the World Series. After winning Game 5, the Dodgers closed the series in six games to claim the title. It was a bitter end to an otherwise excellent season. Despite falling short, the memories made during this run will last us a lifetime. This run also highlights the front office's magnificent work in creating this team, especially through trades. The deal for Randy Arozarena might be one of the most important trades in team history, not just for this run. He'd follow up this postseason performance by winning the AL Rookie of the Year in 2021, and he continues to be a heralded figure for this franchise.