Monday, December 6 2021

Randy Arozarena‘s October magic is back – and more spectacular than ever.

Arozarena, the Tampa Bay Rays rookie outfielder, made history Thursday by hitting a home run and stealing home in Game 1 of their American League Division Series against Boston, kick-starting the Rays’ defense of their American League pennant in historic fashion.

He’s the first player in playoff history to steal home and hit a home run in the same game. It was the first steal of home in a playoff game since the Chicago Cubs’ Javy Baez in Game 1 of the 2016 National League Championship Series.

Randy Arozarena steals home against the Red Sox in the 7th inning.Randy Arozarena steals home against the Red Sox in the 7th inning.

Randy Arozarena steals home against the Red Sox in the 7th inning.

It was one year ago when Arozarena slugged 10 home runs and banged out 29 hits in 20 games, both postseason records. He spurred the the Rays all the way to Game 6 of the World Series, where they lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

This year, they enter as favorites to defend their AL title and Game 1 of that quest showed why.

Arozarena drew a leadoff walk in the first inning and scored on an RBI double by Wander Franco, their 20-year-old rookie shortstop. Nelson Cruz, their 40-year-old DH, hit a home run off one of Tropicana Field’s infamous catwalks.

And then in the fifth, Arozarena ripped a pitch 106 mph and 397 feet out to left field to give the Rays a 4-0 lead. It was his 11th postseason home run, putting him just six homers away from cracking the all-time top 10 – a startling achievement given that Arozarena, technically, is still a 26-year-old rookie.

In Game 1, he saved the best for last.

Arozarena drew a walk in the seventh inning and motored to third on Franco’s RBI double. Red Sox lefty Josh Taylor was summoned, and Arozarena immediately began taking aggressive leads off third base as Taylor pitched to Brandon Lowe.

Taylor, it seems, went to great lengths to appear unbothered by Arozarena, and perhaps got too casual. As Taylor came set with the count 1-2 on Lowe, Taylor’s back turned away from Arozarena, the Cuban native dashed from home, getting several steps of a head start before Taylor realized what was happening.

Rays manager Kevin Cash said Thursday that Arozarena had been badgering him to steal home for weeks. In the 2020 World Series, teammate Manuel Margot was thrown out at home when he attempted a similar steal off Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw.

Arozarena was insistent.

“He’s asked me all season long, ‘Verde, verde, verde’ – green light,” says Cash. “We finally gave it to him.”

He easily beat the throw home to catcher Christian Vazquez with a headfirst slide.

It was 5-0, which stood as the final score.

And if last year is any indication, Arozarena and the Rays are only now just starting to cook.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Rays’ Randy Arozarena makes history in spectacular fashion in ALDS

Source: Yahoo Sports

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