There are moments in sports history that will be talked about for years to come. Stefon Diggs’s touchdown against the Saints in the 2018 National Football League Championship is one, and David Freese’s numerous heroics in the 2011 World Series represent a different example. For sports fans watching game five of the 2020 World Series, another may have just occurred.
The game was exciting throughout the nine innings of play. Eight of the innings contained at least one run crossing the plate, and there were four lead changes, most of which occurred in the later innings. Shifts were used, mistakes were made, and several balls left the park. However, all anyone will talk about is the games final moments. Let’s set the scene.
The series is 2–1 in favor of the Dodgers, and they held a 7–6 lead with their closer, Kenley Jansen on the mound. He strikes out the first batter but proceeds to surrender a hit to Rays centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier. Kiermaier himself had a heroic moment earlier in the contest, hitting a home run to tie the game at six in the 7th inning.
With Kiermaier at first and infielder Joey Wendle at the plate, Jansen induced a lineup to the left field. One out was separating the Dodgers from a commanding 3–1 series lead. However, red-hot designated hitter Randy Arozarena stepped up the plate with one thing on his mind; victory. If this was the night before, the game may have ended there.
Facing a three and two count against Jansen with two outs, Arozarena hit the ball out. However, this happened in a 6–1 contest in a relatively low-pressure contest. In this situation, Jansen was not going to give Arozarena anything to hit. After a hard-fought battle, Arozarena was on first base with a walk, moving the tying run into scoring position.
Now up for the Rays; outfielder Brett Philips. Phillips is not a household name by any means. The 2012 sixth-round pick was a mid-season pickup for the Rays and was mostly a defensive replacement and pinch-runner. He batted under the Mendoza line this season and was left off the roster for the American League Championship Series. Still, in perhaps the biggest moment of the series, Phillips is the Rays last hope.
The first pitch whizzes in for a close ball one. The next pitch lands for strike two, and a very questionable second strike follows, putting the Rays in a tough position. With the pressure mounting, Phillips rips a ball into the right-center gap, basically ensuring a tie game. However, the ball skipped to the side of outfielder Chris Taylor, setting the Rays up for a victory. While this is happening, Arozarena rounds third base with steam and falls at the halfway mark. At this moment, the ball is already flying towards catcher Will Smith and a catch and a tag will send the game to the 10th inning.
Instead of this simple outcome, Muncy’s throw is a bit right, and Smith miscalculates his glove placement, leading to the ball careening towards the backstop and a fatigued Arozarena essentially diving on the bag, securing the win for the Rays.
In case you missed it, here is the video on full display:
The game was an instant classic, and former all-star and current commentator Alex Rodriguez reacted that pretty much sums up how all watching the game felt.
How does this impact the series? Well, whoever wins two of the next three games takes the trophy home. The Rays have some new life and the Dodgers are rattled. It will be interesting to see how it plays out, but no matter what, the fans have received a moment that will live on for years to come.