October 24, 2020

World Series Game 4: Rays 8, Dodgers 7

Dodgers - 101 011 210 - 7 15  1
Rays    - 000 113 102 - 8 10  0 
Brett Phillips had not batted in 17 days. He started the 2020 season in Kansas City and was traded to the Rays at the end of August. In 20 at-bats with Tampa Bay, he hit only .150. He felt the weight of the World Series on his shoulders as he stepped in against Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen. The Rays trailed by one run. They had men at first and second, but there were two outs. Tampa Bay was in serious danger of falling behind in the series 1-3 and having to face Clayton Kershaw in a must-win game.

Jansen started the inning by striking out Yoshi Tsutsugo. Kevin Kiermaier blooped a single into right-center. In the Rays bullpen, both Tyler Glasnow and Blake Snell (the Game 1 and Game 2 starters) were warming up. Joey Wendle's liner to left-center was caught in the gap by Joc Pederson.

The Dodgers decided to pitch to Randy Arozarena (who hit his ninth home run of the postseason earlier in the game) rather than intentionally walking him and putting the winning run on base. But Jansen ended up walking him anyway. Or did he?

In an alternate robot-umpire universe, Jansen's seventh pitch, low in the zone, was called strike three. The Dodgers won 7-6 and would try to win their first championship since 1988 tomorrow night.

However, in this universe, human beings are still tasked with calling balls and strikes and they are, for reasons both ophthalmological and emotional, unfit for the task. Plate umpire Chris Guccione blew the full count call, costing the Dodgers a key World Series victory. (That bad call alone should be enough reason to move to an electronic strike zone.) In fact, Guccione got the call wrong on three of his final four pitches, a shocking level of incompetence that should forever bar him from postseason assignments.

Jansen came inside on Phillips and Guccione called ball one. That was a correct call, but he missed the next two. Jansen's subsequent offerings were too far inside (called strike 1) and too far outside (called strike 2). The Rays should have been one pitch away from loading the bases. Instead, they were one strike away from a 7-6 defeat.

Phillips lined the next pitch, a sinker low and away, into right-center field. Chris Taylor, who had moved from left to center in the seventh, raced to the ball. He failed to glove it cleanly and it sailed away to his left. He chased after it and quickly threw it into the infield. Kiermaier scored, tying the game at 7-7. Arozarena, in a dead sprint from first, stumbled rounding third and pitched forward, tumbling to the ground. Somehow he had the presence of mind to go into a roll which allowed him to pop back up very quickly.

LA first baseman Max Muncy took Taylor's throw and fired the ball to catcher Will Smith. It looked like the Dodgers would have Arozarena in a rundown. The Rays rookie was back on his feet and hurriedly trying to get back to third. Muncy's throw was off target, wide of the plate to the first base side. Smith was well set-up for a possible sweep tag on the runner, but the ball glanced off the tip of his mitt and caromed into foul territory. Arozarena saw that and reversed direction, running a bit before diving for the dish. There was no play. He slapped the plate with his hand several times, and then simply lay there, smiling in disbelief, looking out at the field as the shocked Dodgers abandoned the diamond and Phillips's teammates chased the unlikely hero around the infield and into left-center field.

The ending left me in shock, staring at the TV screen, wondering exactly what I had just seen. (I was not alone.) Watching it live, I was not sure how the ball had gotten away from Smith. For whatever reason, I never expected the Rays to come out on top in this game, and then for that to happen, on a play on which the Dodgers committed two errors (even though only one was charged), it left me dumbfounded.

Arozarena tumbles and rolls as Muncy is about to throw home.

Smith is unable to catch the ball. One amazing aspect of the replays is how umpire Cuccione is not in any position to make a call. He's standing around as if the game is actually in a commercial break. A throw has been made to the catcher, there is a runner between third and home, and it's the bottom of the ninth in a tied World Series game, while Guccione wonders when the next bus is due to arrive. When the errant baseball hits his leg, he seems surprised a ball was in play.

Arozarena is making moves to go back to third as the ball get through the umpire.

Arozarena slides in with the winning run.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts is not happy with how the game ended.

The Rays are having fun chasing Phillips.

Roberts contemplates the vastness of space, the void that is sky, the insignificance of human life, and the eternal enemy, loneliness, which is timeless, waiting with the patience of eons, forever waiting.

The series is tied 2-2.

Before the night's final play, the Rays had to have extremely frustrated by the Dodgers' seemingly super-natural ability to both rally with two outs and to respond with run(s) every single time the Rays scored. Saturday's game featured a World Series record eight consecutive half-innings in which runs were scored. The Dodgers answered Tampa Bay's scoring with run(s) of their own in four out of four chances in Game 4. In the World Series, they have done so in eight of 11 opportunities.

I couldn't stand the thought (or the sound) of another evening filled with John Smoltz's hectoring, so I tried the international radio option. After I heard someone referred to as Andy, I discovered it was the Rays regular radio guys, Andy Freed and Dave Wills. They were level-headed and seemed very intent on calling the game rather than blabbing away. I was pleased. . . . (Neither-A-Spoiler-Nor-A-Surprise: I would soon not be pleased.)

The Dodgers had baserunners in every inning. In the three innings they failed to score, they had a man at second twice and a runner at first. Justin Turner became the first player in World Series history to go deep in the first inning of consecutive games when he redirected a 2-0 pitch from Ryan Yarbrough over the center field fence. 

Arozarena singled in the first and ended the inning when he was thrown out trying to steal second. Umpire Mark Carlson blew the call, ruling the runner safe. LA challenged the call and while the umps had their headphones on, the play was shown on the videoboard. Arozarena and the Dodgers (and the 11,441 fans) saw the play clearly and all the players promptly walked off the field. Eventually, the umpires confirmed what everyone already knew.

In the second, the Rays radio guys ("RR") commented on Yarbrough's lack of strikes in initial first inning. He did not get a called strike until his 15th pitch (and none of the nine balls before that were even borderline)! Seager had lined out on 3-0 and Turner's homer had come on 2-0. One of them said Yarbrough has been ahead of only Muncy, who grounded on on a 1-2 pitch. They were wrong. Yarbrough was 1-2 on Mookie Betts to start the game before Betts popped up on a full count. 

Turner's first-inning dong came with two outs, as did Corey Seager's homer in the third. The Dodgers put two more runners on base after they led 2-0, but stranded them. Around the third, the RR had been dropping a few "we"s into their patter, which was expected; they've been calling Rays games all summer. But then they started calling Yarbrough "Yarbs" and increasing the frequency with which they referred to Rays by their first names, while also providing opinions about various baseball topics, something that was wonderfully absent in the first two innings. These opinions ranged from silly to strange.

In one amusing moment, Seager's homer came immediately after one of the RR said he had never been so nervous watching an opposing team with two outs and two strikes. Next pitch: BOOM! The RR noted that was the 30th home run allowed by the Rays this postseason, a record. He then praised the Rays press people for including a not-so-cherry tidbit in their game notes because other teams, he said, "particularly those on the east coast, tend not to include anything negative in their team's notes". Fuck the heck? I assume he was referring to either New York or Boston. Anyway, Yarbrough got two outs on six pitches, then needed 19 more to get the elusive third out.

Oh, someone named Dan Johnson apparently threw out the first pitch (did I hear that is was via Zoom from Minnesota?) and the RR praised him as someone who had hit some never-to-be-forgotten postseason home runs for the Rays. In fact, fans up in Boston have a special nickname for him. . . . Really? They have a special nickname for someone no one's ever fucking heard of? Well, whatever he did, it must have been in 2008. . . . I was sure he said "postseason", but no one by that name played in the 2008 ALCS. However, a Dan Johnson did play for the Rays that season, as well as 2010 and 2011. So I looked at his home run log

2008: Johnson hit a game-tying johnson off Jonathan Papelbon in the top of the ninth on September 9. A couple of doubles later in the inning gave Tampa Bay a 5-4 win. On September 15, he homered when the Rays were trailing 13-3.

2010: Johnson hit a game-winning dong off Scott Atchison on August 28, capping off an eight-pitch at-bat. My report on that game does not evidence any emotional trauma. Johnson also homered on September 7 with his team up 12-2, and those are his four homers against the Red Sox in a TBR uniform. 

Conclusion: The RR have an extremely inaccurate idea of what it takes to earn an all-time derogatory nickname among Red Sox fans.

Anyhoo . . . The RR were pinballing between saying there was plenty of time in this game and the Rays were doomed. One of them got super-animated, yelling in that cliched Sunday! Monster Trucks! voice when Arozarena belted a leadoff longball in the fourth to cut LA's lead to 2-1. That touched off an unprecedented run (ha!) of scoring. A single by Seager and a wild pitch by Pete Fairbanks set the table for Muncy's two-out single (LA 3-1). Muncy ended up being tagged out at second on a 9-2-6 play, as he collided with shortstop Willy Adames and both players tumbled off the base.

Hunter Renfroe homered to begin the home fifth (LA 3-2). The importance of this game was emphasized when Rays manager Kevin Cash brought in his closer Diego Castillo in the sixth inning. Castillo faltered, however, walking two Dodgers and giving up a two-out double down the left field line to Kiké Hernández (LA 4-2).

Part of the RR's audio eulogy for the Rays involved saying this postseason experience would help the 2021 team. After all, the Dodgers have been in three of the last four WS and they have shown they can handle whatever comes at them. The RR claimed the Dodgers players had gotten better during the regular seasons because of their postseason experience. That seems dubious, but the upshot was, having the Rays lose the WS would not be a total disaster; it would make "us" more experienced and a better team next year.

The Rays wanted to be better tonight. Arozarena opened the bottom of the sixth with a single off Blake Treinen. (On-screen WS factoid: Rays inning-leadoff hitters: 2-for-29 through tonight's third inning; 3-for-3 with 2 HR in the last three innings) Pinch-hitter Ji-Man Choi got ahead 3-0 before walking on a full-count.

After Treinen struck out another pinch-hitter, Austin Meadows, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts brought in Pedro Báez to face Brandon Lowe .  . . who belted a three-run homer to left-center. (RR: "Don't stop now, boys!!") (TB 5-4) Báez is the first pitcher in Dodgers postseason history to give up a lead-flipping home run to the first batter faced after entering a game.

Aaron Loup was entrusted with holding the Rays' 5-4 lead. He failed. Seager singled to right and Turner doubled to left-center. With two on, Loup fanned Muncy and departed. Nick Anderson struck out Smith and intentionally walked Cody Bellinger. Pederson pinch-hit and hit a line drive towards right field. Tampa second baseman Lowe was in shallow right in a shift. He semi-slipped moving to his right, so his dive for the ball ended up a few inches too low for a tremendous catch. The ball glanced off the top of his glove and carried on into right field. Two runs scored on the two-out hit, but Bellinger was thrown out at third (LA 6-5).

With one out in the bottom of the seventh, Báez surrendered another home run, this time a solo shot to Kiermaier (6-6), which gave the Rays the distinction of being the first team in major league history to hit a home run in four straight innings in a postseason game. Báez then walked Yandy Díaz. Arozarena grounded the ball right over second base, which turned into a 4U-3 double play.

Chris Taylor doubled to base of the wall in left to start the Dodgers eighth. Hernández tried to bunt and popped up to third. Betts grounded to shortstop, Adames looking the runner back before throwing to first. Seager figured that two outs and two strikes was the perfect time for a bloop single into short left field that scored Taylor (LA 7-6). John Curtiss gave up another hit but got out of the inning without further trouble.

Adam Kolarek walked Choi to start the Rays eighth as Blake Snell began warming up in the bullpen. Meadows flied to center and Lowe struck out. Brusdar Graterol relieved Kolarek and gave up a single to Adames. (RR, prior to hit: "Still waiting for Playoff Willy to show up".) Phillips went in at second base as a pinch-runner for Choi. Graterol's first pitch to Renfroe was almost right down the middle. Guccione called it a ball, possibly the worst called pitch of the entire season. Renfroe flied to right, ending the bottom of the eighth and putting the first "0" on the scoreboard since the top of the fourth.

The Dodgers managed only a two-out single in the top of the ninth, setting the stage for Jansen and Guccione and Phillips.

In the later innings, one of the RR (Dave Wills, I believe) remarked that before the World Series started, he believed the Dodgers were a good team, of course, but "we had just faced the Astros and they are just as good". . . . Say what? The 29-31 Astros are just as good a team as the 43-17 Dodgers? The Astros, with a run differential of +4, are just as good as the Dodgers, with a run differential of +13-fucking-6?

He did say he had underestimated the Dodgers and called them "relentless". And I salute him for admitting (twice, because he repeated it a bit later) such an embarrassing thought. But Holy Christ. The Dodgers' run differential is 132 runs better than the Astros. The difference between the Rays (+60) and the Red Sox (-59) is only 119. And you don't hear too many people saying those teams were pretty much the same in 2020.

Tampa Bay tied a World Series record for a nine-inning game by using 21 players.

Ji-Man Choi is the second player in World Series history to draw two walks and score a run in a game he didn't start. The first was Don Larsen of the Yankees, who relieved Bob Turley in the second inning of Game 3 in 1957.

The Dodgers are the first team to have 15+ hits in a nine-inning World Series game and lose since the Cardinals lost Game 5 in 1982 to the Brewers.

Teammates With Four Hits Each In A World Series Game
George Burns & Frank Snyder, 1921 Yankees, Game 3 vs Giants (13-5 win)
Enos Slaughter & Whitey Kurowski & Joe Garagiola, 1946 Cardinals, Game 4 vs Red Sox (12-3 win)
Paul Molitor & Robin Yount, 1982 Brewers, Game 1 vs Cardinals (10-0 win)
Justin Turner & Corey Seager, 2020 Dodgers, Game 4 vs Rays (7-8 loss)

Teammates Who Allowed Multiple Homers In The Same World Series Game
Bill Sherdel & Grover Cleveland Alexander, 1928 Cardinals, Game 4 vs Yankees (3-7 loss)
Scott Garrelts & Kelly Downs, 1989 Giants, Game 3 vs Athletics (7-13 loss)
Julio Urías & Pedro Báez, 2020 Dodgers, Game 4 vs Rays (7-8 loss)

Julio Urías / Ryan Yarbrough

The 2020 Dodgers score a lot of their runs with two outs. In 15 postseason games, they have scored 50 runs with two outs, and 12 of those 50 runs have come in innings in which the first two hitters were retired.

Elias reports that for teams that played at least 10 games in a postseason (which means only since divisional play began in 1969), Los Angeles has the fourth-best percentage of two-out runs:
1992 Atlanta:   59.3%
2008 Red Sox: 58.7%
2010 Giants: 57.6%
2020 Dodgers: 57.4%
1975 Reds: 56.3%
Before this year, the record for two-out runs in a single postseason belonged to the 2004 Red Sox, who played 14 games and scored 46 runs with two outs.

The Red Sox's search for the team's next manager is well underway.

Various reports state they have interviewed six candidates: Cubs third-base coach Will Venable, Pirates bench coach Don Kelly, Marlins bench coach James Rowson, Padres associate manager Skip Schumaker, Twins bench coach Mike Bell, and Diamondbacks bench coach Luis Urueta (who was interviewed last year before Ron Roenicke was hired).

The Red Sox also want to interview Dodgers first-base coach George Lombard, but that will have to wait until the World Series is over. 


wallythe24 said...

That was some finish , don't think I'd like to have been too close to Dave Roberts for a while.

Jim said...

BTW, I should have mentioned in my "plate ump" post that I'm enjoying immensely your game recaps. I simply don't have the patience anymore to put up with 4 hours of intermittent bullshit when it could be done in 3. Thanks.

Jake of All Trades said...

I remember Dan Johnson, but I don’t have a nickname for him.

He hit a game tying homer against the Yankees in the bottom of the ninth on the last day of the 2011 season. Rays went on to win in extras.

Papelbon blew a save against the Orioles that same night. Sox loss plus Rays win gave the Rays the wildcard and completed the Red Sox late season collapse.

(I distinctly remember it being the only day in my life I wanted the Yankees to win but couldn’t quite muster up actually rooting for them.)

In a parallel universe, if Dan Johnson doesn’t hit that home run Francona doesn’t get fired and Bobby Valentine never happens.

But in that same parallel universe, 2013 & 2018 might be different too. So maybe we should thank Dan Johnson?

allan said...

More Game 4 factoids:

The Rays are the second team in World Series history (and the first AL team) to have six consecutive starters not last 5.0 innings: Andy Sonnanstine, 2008 G4; Scott Kazmir, 2008 G5; Tyler Glasnow, 2020 G1; Blake Snell, 2020 G2; and Charlie Morton, 2020 G3). The first team was the 1947 Dodgers.

The Rays used 21 players, matching a record for a nine-inning World Series game also held by the 1947 Yankees and 1961 Reds.

The Rays (7) and Dodgers (6) used a combined 13 pitchers, the most in World Series history for a nine-inning game.

The Dodgers became the first team in World Series history to score with two outs in six different innings of a single game.

This was also the first World Series game in which both teams scored in three straight innings.

Hunter Renfroe became the first player in World Series history with a home run and two outfield assists in same game.

Muncy's dong extended the Dodgers' streak of postseason games with multiple home runs to seven games, setting a new record and topping the 2019-20 Yankees' mark of six games.