October 25, 2020

Brett Phillips: "It's Honestly Hard To Believe Right Now That That Just Happened."

Brett Phillips, newest World Series hero:
It's honestly hard to believe right now that that just happened.
Juan Toribio, mlb.com:
Brett Phillips grew up a Rays fan. He remembers shouting at the top of his lungs at every key moment in franchise history, including when the club made the World Series for the first time in 2008.

Phillips dreamed of playing for the Rays in a World Series, playing that scenario over and over again in his backyard. On Saturday, that dream came to life as Phillips delivered the most memorable play in franchise history, a two-out, game-tying RBI single followed by two Dodgers errors that gave Tampa Bay an 8-7, Game 4 victory over the Dodgers in one of the most improbable finishes in World Series history, tying the Fall Classic at two games apiece.

"To know the backstory, is to know the story," Phillips said. "When these guys were in the World Series, I was in eighth grade watching them. And now to be a part of it, helping these guys win a World Series game . . ."
Phillips's hit moved the Rays' win probability from 19% to 100%.

Top Three Plays In World Series History, By Win Probability Added

1988 Game 1 - 87% - Dodgers - With his team trailing 3-4, Kirk Gibson hit a two-out, game-winning home run off Dennis Eckerlsey of the Athletics.

1947 Game 4 - 82% - Dodgers - Cookie Lavagetto's game-winning, two-run double also broke up a no-hit bid by the Yankees' Bill Bevens.

2020 Game 4 - 81% - Rays - Brett Phillips's single and a Dodgers error give the Rays two runs and a series-tying win.

Jayson Stark, The Athletic:
There has never, ever been a player less likely to get a hit that resulted in his team winning on a World Series walk-off than Brett Phillips.

Why do I say that? This is why I say that:

HE HADN'T GOTTEN A HIT IN A MONTH! Before Saturday, Phillips' last hit was on Sept. 25. He got this one on Oct. 24. So that means he went 28 consecutive days in between without getting any hits. Thanks to amazing work by STATS Perform's Sam Hovland, we can report that's the most consecutive hitless days by any player before he got a hit as the final batter in a World Series walk-off win.

The previous record-holder, according to STATS: It's good old Cookie Lavagetto again. His big hit was on Oct. 3. His previous hit: Sept. 11. That’s 21 hitless days in between.

HE HADN'T HAD AN AT-BAT IN TWO AND A HALF WEEKS! Before he stepped to the plate on Saturday, Phillips hadn't had an at-bat in any game since Oct. 7. And yep, that too is a record for most consecutive days without a plate appearance before one of these hits.

The old record: Angel Mangual, of the 1972 A's, hadn't been to the plate since Oct. 11 when he got a walk-off pinch hit in Game 4 of that World Series, on Oct. 19.

HE'D HIT UNDER .200 THREE YEARS IN A ROW! The whole Brett Phillips story is something, all right – for many reasons. But this would be one: His batting average this season, for the Rays and Royals, was .196. His average for the Royals last year? That was .138. The year before that? How about .187, for the Royals and Brewers.

And then he got this hit? You can't make this stuff up.

According to STATS, he's the only player to hit under .200 during one regular season – let alone three straight – and then get a hit as the last batter of a World Series walk-off win that season. The previous record for lowest average by a player who did that? Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz batted .219 in 2008, then won Game 3 of that World Series on a walk-off infield dribbler at 1:47 a.m.

HE'D DRIVEN IN TWO RUNS ALL YEAR ON HITS THAT WEREN'T HOMERS! Phillips is a man who drove in five runs all season – but just two of them came via hits like this one, that stayed inside the park. Not surprisingly, no other walk-off hero in history has ever had that few non-homer RBIs in a season that led up to one of these walk-off World Series hits we've been writing so eloquently about.

The old record was eight, by Cookie Lavagetto, the year of his big hit in 1947.

HE'D NEVER GOTTEN A POSTSEASON HIT! How about having no career postseason hits and then getting this hit? Cool as that is, Phillips does have a little company in this claim to fame. According to STATS, two other players got a hit like this for their first career postseason hit:

First Career Postseason Hit As Last Batter Of Game In A World Series Walk-Off Win
Dusty Rhodes, Giants - 1954 WS Game 1 vs Cleveland
Bill Bruton, Milwaukee - 1958 WS Game 1 vs Yankees
Brett Phillips, Rays - 2020 WS Game 4 vs Dodgers

HE'D NEVER GOTTEN A WALK-OFF HIT! This was Phillips' fourth big-league season. He owned zero career walk-off hits in the regular season. Then he got this hit. He actually doesn't stand alone in that category. Here are the four other players in the Wild Card era to get a hit as the final batter of a World Series walk-off win before they got a regular-season (or any other postseason) walk-off hit:

Scott Podsednik, White Sox: 2005 World Series Game 2
David Freese, Cardinals: 2011 World Series Game 6
Alex Bregman, Astros: 2017 World Series Game 5
Max Muncy, Dodgers: 2018 World Series Game 3

You should know, by the way, that Brett Phillips recognizes just how implausible it was that he was the guy who did what he did. He even expressed sympathy for his manager, Kevin Cash, that this game somehow came down to him.

"That shows again," Phillips said, cheerily, "why Cash is the man … because I'm sure that he was like, 'Ohhhh no. We've gotta go to the last guy on the bench!'" . . .

Did these teams just score in every half-inning?

Nah, I exaggerated that part. But they did score in every half-inning from the bottom of the fourth inning through the top of the eighth. And that's eight half-innings in a row.

So how many times had that happened in any World Series game ever played? Never, of course.

And how many times had it happened, for that matter, in any of the previous 1,667 postseason games ever played in any round? Once again, the correct answer is never.

The Rays have been around for 23 seasons. They've played over 3,600 regular-season games. How many times before Saturday had they gotten mixed up in a game with runs scored in eight consecutive half-innings, according to STATS? Repeat after me one more time: Never!

Only the Dodgers, who have been in business for over a century, had an experience with a game like this. They've actually had it happen five times in the last 120 seasons – but none since 2001, which was more than 3,000 regular-season games ago.

And then this happened in one of the wildest, weirdest World Series games ever played? Sure it did!

It was impossible for the Dodgers to lose – but they did

I want you to consider what the Dodgers did in this game. They held a lead, at some point, in the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth innings in this game…and they lost. Try that sometime on your Xbox.

But also …

• The Dodgers got 15 hits in this game – and they lost. Only one team in history – Willie Stargell's 1979 Pirates – ever got more hits (17) and lost a World Series game. And just Snuffy Stirnweiss' 1947 Yankees and Willie McGee's 1982 Cardinals ever got 15 on the nose and lost.

• The Dodgers also scored in six different innings in this game – and they lost. According to STATS, just three other teams have ever done that. And they were in three of the wildest World Series games of all time: The 1993 Phillies in the fabled 15-14 game, the 2011 Rangers in that classic Game 6 and the Dodgers in their mind-boggling 13-12 loss to the Astros in Game 5, 2017. Only that 15-14 game was a nine-inning game like this one, by the way.

• And one more thing: The Dodgers' relentless offense didn't go down 1-2-3 in a single inning on Saturday – and they still lost.

So how impossible was it to do all of that and not win? They're the first team in World Series history to get that many hits, score in that many innings, have zero 1-2-3 innings and still lose. So we'd say it was just about impossible, except for one thing:

Somehow or other, it happened.
As Stark would say: "Baseball!"

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