ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — So many instances all through the 2021 common season, Randy Arozarena, the dazzling Tampa Bay Rays outfielder, has bugged his supervisor with the similar request on the basepaths.
“He has asked me all season long, ‘Verde, verde, verde?’ — ‘Green light, green light?’ — and we’ve tried to manage that,” mentioned Rays Manager Kevin Cash, utilizing a sprinkle of Spanish.
But when Arozarena reached third base in the seventh inning of the Rays’ 5-0 win over the Boston Red Sox in Game 1 of the best-of-five American League division collection on Thursday evening, he seen two issues that made his eyes widen: the left-handed Red Sox reliever Josh Taylor wasn’t paying a lot consideration to him, and third baseman Rafael Devers was shifted far-off from the bag. So Arozarena quizzed Rays third base coach Rodney Linares about verde, verde, verde.
“I was just waiting for the authorization,” Arozarena mentioned in Spanish, “and I looked at Cash over there and he gave me the authorization, so I went.”
In doing so, Arozarena produced one in all the most enjoyable performs in the sport: a straight steal of house plate. And with it, the Rays offered one other reminder: They is likely to be identified for his or her bookish innovation and for successful despite a small payroll however, with gifted rookies like Wander Franco and Arozarena, they’ll additionally play an exhilarating model of baseball.
“It’s nice to have those guys at the front of the lineup to put everything in movement,” Rays designated hitter Nelson Cruz mentioned. “We can score so many ways, not necessarily with the homers.”
Although Cruz, 41, homered on Thursday, off the Tropicana Field catwalk, it was the kids — notably Arozarena and Franco — main the approach, as that they had all through the season. With two doubles and a run pushed in throughout Game 1, Franco, 20, grew to become the youngest participant in major-league historical past to file a number of extra-base hits in his postseason debut. He additionally performed strong protection at shortstop, exhibiting a peaceful past his years, which he credited to large moments again house in his native Dominican Republic.
“I remembered the impressive moments I played in as a kid in tournaments, and they were always good tournaments with a lot of people,” he mentioned in Spanish about the purpose for his lack of nerves. “So I felt like a kid, really.”
The high prospect in baseball this 12 months, Franco has been turning heads in the main leagues since his debut on June 22. Despite taking pictures by the minors, Franco hit .288 with seven house runs in 70 regular-season video games with the Rays. His manufacturing has continued into the postseason.
Arozarena is aware of a factor or two about excelling on the greatest stage with little expertise. With solely 42 profession regular-season video games underneath his belt heading into final 12 months’s postseason, Arozarena smashed a file 10 homers and collected 29 hits in 20 video games to assist energy the Rays to the World Series, the place they misplaced to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Despite that, Arozarena, 26, nonetheless certified as a rookie throughout the 2021 season. On the discipline on Thursday, Arozarena, like Franco, didn’t play like a novice. His straight steal of house was the first in a postseason sport since Javier Baez did it for the Chicago Cubs in opposition to the Dodgers in Game 1 of the 2016 National League Championship Series.
“I’ve been impressed,” Cruz mentioned of Arozarena and Franco. “They’ve been doing it all year long. Wander’s first time in the postseason and he looks very relaxed. It was typical Wander: He did bat pretty well, he swung at pitches for strikes and he ran the bases pretty good. And Randy, he just goes to a different level once the postseason starts.”
Not solely did Arozarena discover a Red Sox opening he may exploit together with his legs, he additionally hit a fifth-inning solo house run on Thursday. Many of the 27,419 individuals in attendance serenaded him to chants of “Ran-dy! Ran-dy!” after each moments.
“My mind feels like a 100-year old man,” mentioned Arozarena, who hit .274 with 20 house runs and 20 stolen bases in 141 video games this 12 months. He added later, “Rookies are only marks that you have to reach in the big leagues, but I feel like a veteran.”
During final 12 months’s postseason, Arozarena found a good-luck allure in the type of cowboy boots he wore on the discipline throughout batting apply earlier than video games. He put them on once more earlier than Thursday’s sport and, in response to him, they labored.
“That means the magic is there and it can’t be changed,” Arozarena mentioned.
Tampa Bay obtained assist from different rookies on Thursday: Shane McClanahan (who had a 3.43 earned run common in 123⅓ regular-season innings) pitched 5 scoreless innings and J.P. Feyereisen (a 2.45 E.R.A. over 36⅔ regular-season innings) threw two of his personal.
“I have been seeing Wander do stupid stuff since Princeton,” McClanahan, 24, mentioned of the Rays’ lowest-level minor league affiliate, the place he and Franco had been teammates in 2018.
“We could tell then he was special, and he just keeps doing it and it’s so impressive to watch. Same thing with Randy, too. It’s really fun to go to the field every single day and be like, I wonder how many home runs Randy is going to hit today, or how many diving plays?”