ARLINGTON, Texas — Talk about a heart-racing moment.
There’s so much to digest, to discuss, about the mind-boggling play that ended Saturday night’s World Series Game 4 at Globe Life Field. Those contemplations and conversations must start with Brett Phillips.
And Phillips, the man who delivered the two-out, two-strike, two-error, two-run, ninth-inning, game-winning single off Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen, catapulting the Rays to an 8-7 victory and 2-2 series tie, was so overwhelmed by the moment that he had to undergo medical treatment immediately afterward.
“I had to get an IV,” the outfielder revealed Sunday, before the Series continued with Game 5. “My resting heart rate was over 140 just laying there. [The team doctors] said, ‘Man, we’ve gotta chill you down, chill out.’
“But it was all worth it. Just a little hyperventilation going on.”
Hyperventilation and dehydration can result from massive exultation. And what made the moment even more special and historic — it admittedly will stick far greater if the Rays proceed to win their first championship — was the way the little-known, little-used Phillips’ teammates reacted to him. Which spoke to how his teammates view him.
“He hasn’t had the best of opportunities since we acquired him [on Aug. 27, from the Royals], but he’s been the best teammate you could ask for,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said on Sunday. “Supporting us every single night, bringing the positive energy, and he’s done some things to help us win games, none bigger than [Saturday] night.”
“I’m really proud of how he handles it with humility and pointing the finger at everyone else for credit. That’s really who he is,” Marlins third base coach Trey Hillman said Sunday. “He’s as genuine and sincere as he comes across.”
If you’re wondering why in the heck the former Royals manager Hillman, known to Yankees fans as a longtime minor league skipper in their organization, is quoted in this column, the answer is he’s Phillips’ father-in-law.
When Hillman served as A.J. Hinch’s bench coach on the 2015 Astros, Phillips was an Astros minor leaguer who played in some major league exhibition games. The two men realized they had a connection: Victoria Woods, a longtime Hillman family friend, had been Phillips’ gym teacher at Seminole High School in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area (yup, Phillips grew up rooting for the Rays). When Woods visited the Hillmans during spring training, Phillips accompanied Hillman to say hi to his former teacher, and that’s when Phillips met Hillman’s daughter, Brianna. They married last November in central Texas.
(One more New York connection? Phillips left the Astros in the July 30, 2015 trade to Milwaukee for Carlos Gomez, the deal that occurred only because the Mets decided not to trade Crying Wilmer Flores and Zach Wheeler to the Brewers for Gomez.)
Brianna Phillips, who works at a prominent jewelry store (Gold & Diamond Source) in Clearwater, is not a baseball-bubble occupant; she just arrived in town on Saturday and, as per regulations, can see her husband only from the distance of the stands. She attended Saturday’s game with her family although, Hillman acknowledged, the whole family left after the fifth inning, before the big moment. Brianna was with her mother Marie, while Trey Hillman was with his 85-year-old father Royce, all watching on TV.
When the lefty-swinging Phillips (who entered in the eighth inning as a pinch runner for Ji-Man Choi) stroked Jansen’s 1-and-2 cutter through the shift into right-center field, setting in motion the incredible chain of events — center fielder Chris Taylor kicking the ball away, winning run Randy Arozarena falling down between third base and home plate and catcher Will Smith letting Max Muncy’s relay get away from him, with no one backing up — “The springs flew out of our butt,” Hillman said of him and his dad. “We grabbed each other and kept watching the screen, hugging and swaying back and forth.” Phillips did his “airplane” celebration as his teammates mobbed him on the field.
It was the first hit for Phillips, best known previously for a laugh that sounds like a goose honking, since Sept. 25. He wasn’t even on the Rays’ American League Championship Series roster.
“I’m glad I’m not just a movie star anymore,” Phillips cracked.
Still a star, though. One that could shine eternally.