ARLINGTON, Texas (WFLA) – If you are inclined to refer to him as the unlikely hero, I am going to stop you there.
Yes, Brett Phillips had only stepped to the plate in a Tampa Bay Rays uniform 25 times in the regular season. He recorded three hits and five walks.
Yes, he had only appeared in five postseason games prior to Game 4.
Yes, he had been 0 for 2 at the plate in those five games.
Finally, yes, if you want to dive into the dirty details, Phillips had not gotten a hit since September 25 when the Rays were playing the Phillies at Tropicana Field.
Phillips summarized it flawlessly.
“Anyone can come up on any given night,” he said, “especially with the Tampa Bay Rays and help the team win. Someone steps up every night to help this team win and I am just glad I can be a part of that.”
He had the chance to be a huge part of Game 4 and he did not waste it.
The Rays trailed the Dodgers by one run in the bottom of the ninth inning with two men on base, Kevin Kiermaier and Randy Arozarena. The Dodgers had already taken care of Yoshi Tsutsugo and Joey Wendle earlier in the inning.
“I have an opportunity to win this game right here,” Phillips recalls thinking seconds before he stepped to the plate for the first time on Saturday night, “and Paul Hoover comes up to me and he said, ‘Hey, you are going to win this game,’ and I said, ‘Let’s go!’”
Phillips entered the batter’s box to face Kenley Jansen. He watched a cutter pass by for a ball and, then, he saw two strikes. He quickly fell behind in the count.
“I think,” said Phillips, “I was just thinking about all of texts I would have gotten if I did not come up clutch there from all of my friends saying, ‘What was that?’”
He connected on the next pitch sending that ball into right field. His teammates on base, Kiermaier and Arozarena, both scored in fairly dramatic fashion.
“In baseball, this is probably the most fun that you can have next to a walk-off homer in the World Series,” said Phillips. “This was a collective effort.”
Yes, the win was a team win and Phillips is a part of this team.
Do you understand the situation more clearly now? Phillips is hardly the unlikely hero. He is actually the hometown hero.
Phillips was raised in Pinellas County, he attended Seminole High School, the home of the Warhawks, and he cheered for the Rays when they competed against the Phillies for the Commissioner’s Trophy is 2008.
“This is my hometown team,” he said. “In 2008, when these guys were in the World Series, I was in the eighth grade watching this team.”
He has always been a Rays fan and, now, he has Rays fans chanting his name. He admits he dreamed of being a part of a similar moment when he was a child.
“These opportunities are closer than you think and they can come about,” said Phillips. “Things like this happen and it is awesome.”
Where does it fall on the scale of awesomeness for Phillips?
“This is right next to getting married,” he said. “My wife is very special to me and we got married in November and this is equal.”
Phillips declared it a tie, which is exactly where the World Series stands after four games thanks to him, the hometown hero.