ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — So many occasions all through the 2021 common season, Randy Arozarena, the dazzling Tampa Bay Rays outfielder, has bugged his supervisor with the identical request on the basepaths.
“He has requested me all season lengthy, ‘Verde, verde, verde?’ — ‘Inexperienced gentle, inexperienced gentle?’ — and we’ve tried to handle that,” stated Rays Supervisor Kevin Money, utilizing a sprinkle of Spanish.
However when Arozarena reached third base within the seventh inning of the Rays’ 5-0 win over the Boston Pink Sox in Sport 1 of the best-of-five American League division sequence on Thursday night time, he seen two issues that made his eyes widen: the left-handed Pink 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 used to be simply ready for the authorization,” Arozarena stated in Spanish, “and I checked out Money over there and he gave me the authorization, so I went.”
In doing so, Arozarena produced one of the thrilling performs within the sport: a straight steal of residence plate. And with it, the Rays supplied one other reminder: They is likely to be identified for his or her bookish innovation and for winning in spite of a small payroll however, with gifted rookies like Wander Franco and Arozarena, they’ll additionally play an exciting model of baseball.
“It’s good to have these guys on the entrance of the lineup to place every part in motion,” Rays designated hitter Nelson Cruz stated. “We will rating so some ways, not essentially with the homers.”
Though Cruz, 41, homered on Thursday, off the Tropicana Discipline catwalk, it was the children — notably Arozarena and Franco — main the best way, as they’d all through the season. With two doubles and a run pushed in throughout Sport 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 stable protection at shortstop, exhibiting a relaxed past his years, which he credited to massive moments again residence in his native Dominican Republic.
“I remembered the spectacular moments I performed in as a child in tournaments, and so they have been all the time good tournaments with lots of people,” he stated in Spanish concerning the motive for his lack of nerves. “So I felt like a child, actually.”
The highest prospect in baseball this 12 months, Franco has been turning heads within the main leagues since his debut on June 22. Regardless of capturing by the minors, Franco hit .288 with seven residence 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 most important stage with little expertise. With solely 42 profession regular-season video games below his belt heading into final 12 months’s postseason, Arozarena smashed a file 10 homers and picked up 29 hits in 20 video games to assist energy the Rays to the World Sequence, the place they misplaced to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Regardless of that, Arozarena, 26, nonetheless certified as a rookie throughout the 2021 season. On the sector on Thursday, Arozarena, like Franco, didn’t play like a novice. His straight steal of residence was the primary in a postseason sport since Javier Baez did it for the Chicago Cubs towards the Dodgers in Sport 1 of the 2016 Nationwide League Championship Sequence.
“I’ve been impressed,” Cruz stated of Arozarena and Franco. “They’ve been doing all of it 12 months lengthy. Wander’s first time within the postseason and he appears to be like very relaxed. It was typical Wander: He did bat fairly properly, he swung at pitches for strikes and he ran the bases fairly good. And Randy, he simply goes to a distinct degree as soon as the postseason begins.”
Not solely did Arozarena discover a Pink Sox opening he might exploit together with his legs, he additionally hit a fifth-inning solo residence run on Thursday. Most of the 27,419 folks in attendance serenaded him to chants of “Ran-dy! Ran-dy!” after each moments.
“My thoughts looks like a 100-year outdated man,” stated Arozarena, who hit .274 with 20 residence runs and 20 stolen bases in 141 video games this 12 months. He added later, “Rookies are solely marks that you must attain within the massive leagues, however I really feel like a veteran.”
Throughout final 12 months’s postseason, Arozarena found a good-luck appeal within the type of cowboy boots he wore on the sector throughout batting apply earlier than video games. He put them on once more earlier than Thursday’s sport and, based on him, they labored.
“Meaning the magic is there and it may possibly’t be modified,” Arozarena stated.
Tampa Bay bought 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’ve been seeing Wander do silly stuff since Princeton,” McClanahan, 24, stated of the Rays’ lowest-level minor league affiliate, the place he and Franco have been teammates in 2018.
“We might inform then he was particular, and he simply retains doing it and it’s so spectacular to look at. Similar factor with Randy, too. It’s actually enjoyable to go to the sector each single day and be like, I’m wondering what number of residence runs Randy goes to hit at the moment, or what number of diving performs?”