ARLINGTON, Texas — Epic, indeed.
It will be one of those baseball games you won’t soon forget.
The Tampa Bay Rays’ unbelievable ninth-inning, two-out, two-strike, come-from-behind 8-7 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 4 of the 2020 World Series before 11,441 at Globe Life Field might be the craziest October finish seen in MLB history.
The Rays were on the brink of facing elimination on Sunday in Game 5.
Instead, the best-of-seven series is 2-2 and Tampa is alive and well in its quest to win the franchise’s first championship.
The thrilling four-hour and 10-minute contest sent the masses into a texting frenzy. Friends all over the country couldn’t type “Wow!” fast enough. Social media was on fire.
For most, it was an ending suitable for framing. Unscripted theater at its best. It’s the reason we just can’t look away from sports.
But if you’re a Dodgers fan, it was just Saturday, another day at the office.
Yes, it was another postseason choke job for the ages.
These days, the Dodgers do two things: They win the NL West division every year — it’s eight in a row now and counting — and they choke in the postseason.
Simply put, it’s who they are, a part of their fabric.
This time, it was a guy even baseball fans had to Google to figure out who was at the plate with two runners on and two outs.
It was seldom-used outfielder Brett Phillips. He had to face the Dodgers’ closer, Kenley Jansen.
Phillips delivered a clutch single, tying the game.
The Dodgers, as usual, won it for Tampa Bay with a finishing performance that even the Keystone Kops would have been embarrassed to turn in.
Centerfielder Chris Taylor kicked the single to center.
They would have had Rays outfielder Randy Arozarena, who never stopped running from first base, dead at the plate — because he fell down between third and home.
But Taylor threw the ball to first baseman Max Muncy, who relayed it to catcher Will Smith. In Smith’s haste to tag out the runner, he mishandled the throw and dropped the ball. Arozarena was able to get up and slide hands first and score, winning the game for Tampa and leaving Dodgers fans sick.
“It’s tough,” manager Dave Roberts said. “We have to digest it, but we have to move on.”
That’s easier said than done. With each failure the Dodgers are looking more like MLB’s Buffalo Bills, who lost four Super Bowls in a row.
The Dodgers lost two World Series in a row in 2017 and 2018. Last season, the Dodgers — who won a franchise-record 106 games — spared their fans the dubious hat trick, bowing out instead to the Washington Nationals in the NLDS.
Somehow, the Dodgers haven’t won the Fall Classic since 1988. It’s a ridiculously long time for such a legendary franchise with nothing but money and a fan base to die for.
Winning should be a part of the Dodgers’ vocabulary. It’s not.
But here we are again.
Their ace just hasn’t been an ace when it has mattered most. Clayton Kershaw, Sunday’s starter, has been the best pitcher of this generation, but only during the regular season. In October, Kershaw falls like leaves on the trees.
Sadly, the Dodgers can’t trust Kershaw, either. That’s the biggest reason why they haven’t been able to get a title.
Despite all his accomplishments — including three NL Cy Youngs, Kershaw had been mostly stinky in the playoffs with an 11-12 record and a chubby 4.22 ERA.
Worse are Kershaw’s numbers when his team is facing elimination. With a minimum of 20 innings pitched, Kershaw has a 5.77 ERA. Only knuckleballer Tim Wakefield was worse in MLB history. Granted, it’s not an elimination game, but close.
Then there’s the bullpen woes. Jansen was once almost automatic. But he had a terrible 2019 out of the pen, and was not great this season. You honestly can’t trust him. Saturday was Exhibit A.
In the ‘50s, for losing in the playoffs a lot despite a slew of talented players, the Dodgers were called Dem Bums by the fans in Brooklyn. If, or should we say when, they lose in the World Series this year, that name will fit again.
“Can’t let this beat you, can’t let this beat us,” Jansen said. “Like I said before, we have been here before.
“Have to let it go, regroup quickly, come in and play baseball (Sunday). We know who we are, we know what we are capable of.”
Clearly, what they’re capable of is an epic choke.