The Tampa Bay Rays are off and running in the 2021 MLB Playoffs after their 5-0 Game 1 shutout against the Boston Red Sox in the American League Division Series on Thursday.
The Rays, the No. 1 seed in the AL, were powered in large part by the performance of outfielder Randy Arozarena, in his second year with the Rays and third in MLB, but just his first full season as a major leaguer (technically making him still a rookie).
He gave the Rays a 1-0 lead in the first inning after scoring from first base on Wander Franco’s double. Then in the fifth inning, Arozarena launched a home run to left field to extend the Rays’ lead to 4-0. He ended his night in the seventh inning by stealing home plate.
Arozarena, a native of Cuba, became the first player in MLB postseason history to record a home run and a steal of home in the same game.
“I noticed the pitcher wasn’t really keeping his attention to me, so I was able to take a big enough lead and was able to take that base,” Arozarena said through an interpreter after the game, according to the Japan Times. “That’s the first time I’ve ever stolen home, and thank God it was in the playoffs.”
Thursday’s victory was Tampa Bay’s first playoff game since losing last year’s World Series to the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Arozarena seems to be picking up right where he left off.
In 2020 during the Rays postseason run from the wild-card series to the World Series, Arozarena amassed 29 hits (10 home runs) and 14 RBIs with a .377 batting average in 20 games. His performance in a seven-game ALCS against the Houston Astros earned him the 2020 ALCS MVP.
Now, after his three-run performance in Game 1, Arozarena holds the franchise’s postseason record for career runs scored with 22.
With all of the attention he’s gotten for his October performances, Arozarena is quick to point to God.
He posted on Instagram following the game a video of his home run with a caption in Spanish that read, “God makes everything possible.”
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Signed by the St. Louis Cardinals as a 21-year-old in 2016, he made his MLB debut with the club in August 2019. In January 2020, he was traded to Tampa Bay, but didn’t make an appearance as a Ray until Aug. 30, following the pandemic delay and a bout with COVID himself. A month later he was a regular starter, and got hot in October.
Arozarena said during the 2020 playoffs, “Ever since I got traded over, it has been a very close-knit, family-like environment, and I felt very comfortable. As far as the baseball side of things, I just let it be in God’s hands. I feel very relaxed.”
Arozarena and his Rays teammates will look to continue their momentum into Game 2. It’s set for Friday at 7 p.m. ET in St. Petersburg, Florida.
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