Randy Arozarena is back with October magic – more impressive than ever.

The Tampa Bay Rays’ rookie outfielder Arozarena made history by scoring a run in the first game of the American League Division Series against Boston Red Sox. This historic move helped kickstart the Rays’ defence of the American League pennant. 

This is the first time in playoff history that he has both stolen home and scored a run. This was his first home steal in a playoff match since Javy Baez, Chicago Cubs, in Game 1 in the 2016 National League Championship Series.

It was also the first consecutive steal at home in a playoff match since Jackie Robinson, who hid under Yogi’s tag in Game 1 in the 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers/New York Yankees World Series.

Arozarena had 10 home runs, and 29 hits in just one year. Both were 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, a 5-0 victory, showed why. 

Arozarena took a leadoff pitch in the first inning, and was scored by Wander Franco (their 20-year old rookie shortstop). Nelson Cruz, the 40-year old DH of their team, scored a run from Tropicana Field’s famous catwalks. 

In the fifth, Arozarena struck out a pitch that was 106 mph at 397 feet from left field. This gave the Rays an impressive 4-0 lead. Arozarena scored his eleventh postseason homerun, which put him six away from the top 10. This remarkable achievement is impressive considering Arozarena was technically still just 26 years old. 

He kept the best for last in Game 1

Arozarena was hit with a pitch in the seventh and moved to third thanks to Franco’s RBI triple. Red Sox lefty Josh Taylor had to be summoned and Arozarena took aggressive pitches at third base, while Taylor pitched. 

Taylor appeared to have gone to great effort to make Arozarena look unbothered, but perhaps he was too casual. As Taylor came set with the count 1-2 on Lowe, Taylor’s  back turned away from Arozarena, the Cuban native dashed for home, getting several steps of a head start before Taylor realized what was happening. 

Kevin Cash, Rays manager, said that Arozarena was pestering him for several weeks to steal at home. Manuel Margot’s teammate in the 2020 World Series was expelled at home after he tried to steal Clayton Kershaw from the Dodgers. Margot later admitted that he had attempted the same steal by himself. 

Arozarena was third in the third base race on Thursday night when he noticed Taylor’s lack of attention. He told Rodney Linares that he had given fair warning and said, “I’m going, I’m going.” 

Linares was still required to resolve the issue with her boss.

“He’s asked me all season long, ‘Verde, verde, verde’ – green light,” Cash said of Arozarena. He finally got it.

Taylor was thrown home by Christian Vazquez, but Taylor won the throw with a headfirst slip. He scored the last run of the evening. 

Shane Baz (a fellow rookie) will try to replicate Shane McClanahan, who pitched five scoreless innings during Game 1. This should give the Rays an impressive series lead. The Rays are now on the verge of another World Series run with the Red Sox trailing after they lost Tuesday’s wildcard game. 

They’ll have to accept that they might not win the match, and they will do so because their outfielder plays more like a professional than he is a rookie.

“The steal of home was one of the coolest things I’ve seen on a baseball field,” says Cash. This game is about history. And any time you’re putting your name in those categories like Randy is – I’ve never seen anything like it.”

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