ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Randy Arozarena is off and running in October again.
The rookie showstopper became the first player to hit a home run and steal home in a postseason game, propelling the Tampa Bay Rays to a 5-0 victory over the Boston Red Sox in their AL Division Series opener Thursday night.
The breakout star of October last year, Arozarena made a breathtaking dash to the plate for the first straight steal of home in the postseason since Jackie Robinson did it for the Brooklyn Dodgers against Yogi Berra and the New York Yankees in the 1955 World Series, according to the FS1 broadcast.
“I noticed the pitcher wasn’t really keeping his attention to me. So I was able to take a big enough lead and be able to take that base,” Arozarena said through a translator. “That’s the first time I’ve ever stolen home.”
Nelson Cruz also homered — off a Tropicana Field catwalk — and rookie Shane McClanahan pitched five stellar innings for the AL East champions.
Game 2 in the best-of-five series is Friday night, with Chris Sale scheduled to start for Boston against rookie Shane Baz.
Wander Franco also sparkled in his playoff debut, delivering an early RBI double that sent the speedy Arozarena home from first base to get the defending AL champs off to a quick start.
Arozarena, a 26-year-old Cuban who still qualifies as a rookie despite setting postseason records with 10 homers and 29 hits in 20 games a year ago.
“I think it just happens. You know, I just focus a little bit more,” Arozarena said about his postseason prowess. “Luckily, it’s happening in October. That means it’s closer to the World Series.”
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