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Rays in familiar spot after huge World Series gamble backfires

ARLINGTON, Texas — Did baseball’s Little Engine That Could motor its way into a loss?

For the third time this month, the Rays stand one loss away from elimination. The previous two times, first against the Yankees then against the Astros, they fought their way off the cliff’s edge and advanced deeper into the postseason.

This time, 4-2 losers to the Dodgers on Sunday night in World Series Game 5 at Globe Life Field, the Rays must win two before they lose one. And if that doesn’t happen, they must contemplate how this one blew up when one of the sport’s most aggressive maneuvers didn’t pay off.

Would’ve been a hell of a story if Manuel Margot’s attempted steal of home in the fourth inning had worked, right?

“I think we try to do things and make decisions and allow them to be athletic,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “If Manny felt that he had a read on it for whatever reason, it’s tough for me to say yes or no because he’s a talented base runner. He may be seeing something I’m not in the moment there and trying to pick his team up.”

Manuel Margot tagged out at home plate.
Manuel Margot tagged out at home plate.Getty Images

After closing their deficit to 3-2 with a two-run third, the Rays started the fourth against Dodgers icon Clayton Kershaw with walks to Margot and Hunter Renfroe, and during Renfroe’s at-bat, Margot stole second and advanced to third when Dodgers second baseman Chris Taylor let Austin Barnes’ throw get away from him into short-center field.

“You almost assume that the runner at third is going to get in,” Kershaw said.

Instead, Kershaw retired Joey Wendle on a pop fly to Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager in short-center field. Then he struck out Willy Adames.

With an 0-and-1 count on Kevin Kiermaier, Margot broke for home, Kershaw, who as a left-hander faces first base as he prepares to deliver, stepped off the mound in time to fire home, where Barnes delivered the tag for the third out. The Rays didn’t reach as far as third base again for the game’s duration.

“I wasn’t really anticipating it,” said Kershaw, who credited Dodgers first baseman Max Muncy for alerting him to the attempted theft. “That was a big out for us right there.”

As per MLB.com’s Juan Toribio, Margot told reporters that he saw an opening in Kershaw’s inattention to him. Now all of the Rays’ attention will be focused on survival.

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