ARLINGTON, Texas – Manuel Margot snuck a few steps down the line and took off toward home plate, trying to steal a run for Tampa Bay.
“It was my decision, 100% my decision,” Margot said through a translator. “I thought it was a good idea at the time. I thought I had a pretty good chance at potentially being safe.”
He came up a little short — just like the rest of the Rays in their attempt to swipe Game 5 from the Dodgers and go ahead in this World Series.
A night after Tampa Bay's stunning ninth-inning victory, which ended with Randy Arozarena on his stomach and slapping home plate after scoring the winning run, Margot couldn’t get his hand there before getting tagged out by catcher Austin Barnes.
That inning-ending play in the fourth was the last time the Rays got that close to scoring in a 4-2 loss to Los Angeles on Sunday night that left Tampa Bay with a 3-2 Series deficit.
“It was a gutsy move, and it didn’t work," said Kevin Kiermaier, the batter when Margot got caught. “That’s not the reason why we didn’t win the game tonight.”
Needing a victory to force a deciding Game 7, the Rays are set to start 2018 AL Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell on Tuesday night. The lefty struck out nine in 4 2/3 innings when the Rays won 6-4 in Game 2 last Wednesday.
As for Margot's decision to try to steal home, Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash seemed to be careful when asked if it was right move at the time.
“If Manny felt that he had a read on it, for whatever reason, it’s tough for me to say yes or no just because he’s a talented baserunner,” Cash said. “He might be seeing something that certainly I’m not or can’t appreciate in the moment right here. And he’s trying to do something to pick his team up.”
Margot popped up at the plate, and immediately held both hands to his ears, trying to prompt Cash to ask for a replay challenge.
“I thought it was really close, closer than I thought,” Margot said. “But they didn’t challenge it, and that was the call."
Tampa Bay trailed 3-2 against three-time NL Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw when Margot drew a leadoff walk in the fourth. The first-year Rays outfielder stole second base and got a chance for more when Barnes' throw went off the glove of second baseman Chris Taylor for an error.
When the ball rolled past the infield dirt, Margot hesitated briefly before taking off for third base and sliding headfirst so hard that he went over the top of the base. Third baseman Justin Turner kept his glove against Margot, who slammed his hands on the ground while looking at his teammates in the dugout in front of him when he was called safe.
The Dodgers challenged the call, but it stood after a replay that took more than 1 1/2 minutes, but didn't show definitively if Margot ever lost contact with the base while being tagged. He was over the top of the bag the entire time.
After Hunter Renfroe walked, Joey Wendle popped out and Willy Adames struck out. Kiermaier stepped out of the left-handed batter's box when Margot broke for home.
“Frustrating inning. Man on third, no outs. First and third, no outs. Then popup, strikeout and then get thrown out trying to do that,” Cash said. “Ideally we’ve got to find a way to get that guy in to tie the game right there.”
Kershaw, who also beat the Rays in Game 1 of the Series, alertly stepped off the rubber after Margot took off and threw to catcher Barnes for the run-saving tag. First baseman Max Muncy ran toward his pitcher shouting at him to go home after seeing the runner break for the plate.
“It’s happened to me before, at least once that I can remember. Carlos Gomez tried it against me in Houston one time,” Kershaw said. “It was just kind of instinct to step off. Thankfully it happened before. I heard Muncy say `step off' and I stepped off and threw it home."
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said, “We were all surprised. We don’t see that very often at all, left-handed pitcher with his back to the runner. Clayton, really heads-up.”
Margot, who had 12 stolen bases in 47 regular-season games this year, was the first runner thrown out trying to steal home in a World Series game since Minnesota's Shane Mack in a 3-2 loss to Atlanta in Game 4 of the 1991 Series.
Back in 1955, it was the Dodgers who pulled off perhaps the most famous steal of home in a World Series when Jackie Robinson beat Whitey Ford's toss and slid in safely to the chagrin of Yankees catcher Yogi Berra, who was enraged by the umpire's call.
Will Smith was the Dodgers catcher at the end of Saturday night's game, when he missed the ball trying to make a quick sweeping tag on Arozarena. The catcher didn't realize Arozarena had tumbled to the ground before getting up and eventually diving home.
The Rays weren't able to get back up in Game 5.
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