‘Randytime’ arrives for Tampa Bay Rays

by Gary Shelton on October 8, 2021

in general

Arozarena has become the Rays "Mr. Playoffs."

Friday, 4 a.m.

May belonged to Austin Matthews. August was the property of Wander Franco. September went to Brandon Lowe.

But the post-season.

That's Randytime.

Randy Arozarena, who made a name for himself in last year's post-season (10 homers, a .377 average), was at it again in Thursday night's opener of the ALDS. Arozarena took over the game and led the Rays to a 5-0 victory in game one of the series.

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Were you watching?

-- In the first inning, Arozarena scored from first base on a double by Wander Franco.

-- In the fifth, he hit a long home run to left field.

-- In the seventh, he stole home, the first player to do so in five years.

Arozarena is perhaps the front-runner for Rookie of the Year, so he wasn't exactly shabby throughout the season. But he seems to save something for the post-season, which attracts him like a bright light.

His effort gave the Rays a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five series. It also enabled memories of a year ago.

"The home run certainly felt that way," Rays' manager Kevin Cash said. "The steal of home, that was one of the cooler things I've seen on a baseball field. Look, special player. He certainly gets up for the moment. He has proven that day in and day out, and definitely when it's postseason time.

"I noticed that the pitcher wasn't really watching for me or covering for me," Arozarena said. "I saw the third baseman was pretty far away in respect to where I was at. I was looking over to Linares, telling him, hey, I'm going to go, I'm going to go. Peeked over and saw Cash give him the green light as well, so that's when I decided to take off."

The Red Sox were left looking a little foolish by the play.

"They did a good job," said Boston manager Alex Cora. "He was playing with him the whole at-bat, right? We were close to him and then he got back to the bag, and then in that one he kind of, like, timed him perfectly, and he took off. It caught everybody by surprise.

It's a great baseball play. He had a great baseball game today. You know, I think J.T. was actually paying attention, but probably two strikes, you know, he had Lowe with two strikes and probably the concentration was with the hitter. Just put him away, and Randy had an amazing job, and that was an amazing baseball play."

The steal of home will get a lot of the highlights today. The Red Sox had gone to a defensive shift, moving Rafael Devers to protect against Brandon Lowe pulling the ball. Pitcher Josh Taylor is left-handed, which allowed Arozarena to take a huge lead. With two strikes, he stole the plate.

"They had Devers pulled off third base," Cash said. "(Josh) Taylor with the matchup for Brandon. His back is to him, and, you know, Randy -- he has asked me all season long verde, verde, verde, green light, green light, and we've tried to manage that. He finally got his 20th (stolen base) in New York the last series, but he got the green light. We gave it to him and said, all right, if you feel it. You know, Brandon, that's a really tough matchup for Brandon. So he had enough distance from the back to give him a good start, and got a great jump."

There were co-stars to Arozarena's night. Wander Franco had two doubles. Nelson Cruz homered off the C-ring. Rookie Shane McClanahan threw five shutout innings. Reliever J.P. Feyereisen pitched out of a bases loaded, one out situation in the eighth.

But the star was Arozarena, whose combination of speed and power were too much for the Red Sox to handle for a game.

"It's basically his fearlessness, his athleticism, and being able to do it," Cash said. "It's not like we -- we don't practice that. I mean, you see the game has evolved to where, you know, defending the hitter is so important. We do the same thing. It's not the most comfortable thing in the world when you pull a third baseman off. Certainly with a left-handed pitcher that can't see everything."

"He's incredible," McClanahan said. "He's the Rookie of the Year. How can vote for anyone else?"

The Rays play the Red Sox in Game Two of the series tonight at 7:07 p.m. at Tropicana Field. Chris Sale will pitch for Boston against Shane Baz.

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