After Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Blake Treinen struck out Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Willy Adames, who represented the tying run, the celebrations should have begun. Treinen should have thrown his glove away and begun hugging and celebrating with catcher Austin Barnes, while his teammates swarmed them. But that’s not what happened. It was a key win, but it was not the last one they needed.
The Rays’ wild walk-off win in Game 5 is the reason they’re still playing. Without an unprecedented and lucky win in the last at bat of Game 5, the Dodgers would have celebrated their first World Series since 1988 on the neutral field in Texas. But that’s not what happened. The Rays live to fight another day, thanks to some late-game heroics and miscues on the part of the Dodgers.
The Dodgers, as they have in most games this series, jumped out to a lead in Game 5. The Rays would go on to tie it up and even take the lead once in a wild back and forth affair that saw the Rays trailing 7-6 in the bottom of the 9th inning. Rays outfielder Brett Phillips, primarily on the roster as a defensive replacement and pinch runner, stared back at Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen with two strikes, two outs and the winning run at first base. Phillips delivered the biggest hit of his young career—a single to right center to tie the game at seven. That wasn’t the end of the play, though.
Dodgers outfielder Chris Taylor misplayed the ball, giving Rays outfielder Randy Arozarena just a second to decide what to do. Arozarena took the chance to try and score from first, a difficult task on a shallow hit. Arozarena sprinted around third as Taylor relayed the ball in, and the ball got to catcher Austin Barnes with plenty of time to tag Arozarena out. Arozarena stumbled and fell before trying to turn back. When he realized that Barnes hadn’t caught the ball, he ran and dove onto home plate, winning the game.
This wild, unpredictable and unprecedented win allowed the Rays some breathing room. If Phillips didn’t deliver, or Barnes caught the ball, the season would have ended Sunday night. In all probability, the Dodgers should have won. They had an 81% win probability before Phillips’ single. By Win Probability Added, this was actually the third most pivotal play in World Series history.
While the momentum pretty much immediately shifted with the Dodgers scoring on the second batter of Game 6, that play will likely live on even if they cede to the Dodgers on Tuesday night. And the Rays’ season lives on because of it, as well.