Randy Arozarena did it again.
The Rays’ No. 19 prospect clubbed a two-run homer in the first inning of Saturday’s Game 7 contest between Tampa Bay and Houston, setting the tone early as the Rays went on to defeat the Astros 4-2 and advance to the World Series for the
Randy Arozarena did it again.
The Rays’ No. 19 prospect clubbed a two-run homer in the first inning of Saturday’s Game 7 contest between Tampa Bay and Houston, setting the tone early as the Rays went on to defeat the Astros 4-2 and advance to the World Series for the second time in franchise history and the first time since 2008. His performance over the series earned him ALCS Most Valuable Player honors, making him the first rookie position player to earn the award in an LCS or World Series.
“All the work we put in, and everything we’ve done in the offseason [is] for these moments,” Arozarena told the media through an interpreter after the Rays' win.
After Manuel Margot was hit by the first pitch of the bottom of the first, Brandon Lowe went down on strikes. That brought the red-hot Arozarena to the plate, who worked five pitches against starter Lance McCullers before turning on a 97 mph sinker and depositing it over the right-center fence.
Arozarena’s blast made an early impression that the Rays would not bend in the rubber match despite having dropped three consecutive games after leading 3-0. The momentum carried into the next frame, when backstop Mike Zunino went deep to extend the Rays’ lead.
The remaining three at-bats for Arozarena were far less eventful, starting with a fielder's choice in the third inning in which he was thrown out trying to advance to second. He then struck out swinging in the fifth, and grounded out to short in the seventh in what was his final at-bat of the series.
The homer was certainly impactful in the context of the series, but even more so in a historical lens. With the blast, Arozarena became the first rookie in Major League history to club seven homers in a single postseason, forever etching his name in the history books in what was his first substantial experience in the playoffs.
The Cuban native also bested an important name in Rays' lore, as the previous record belonged to Tampa Bay legend Evan Longoria, who went deep six times in the 2008 postseason.
“I don't have any words that can describe what he's done, what he's meant to us this postseason,” Rays manager Kevin Cash told reporters. “For him to have a bat in his hands with an opportunity for a big home run, I think it settled a lot of people in the dugout. It certainly did me.”
The homer was not only the seventh of the postseason for Arozarena but his fourth of the ALCS. He went into the series with three already under his belt, all of which came over the course of three consecutive games against the Yankees during the American League Division Series.
Arozarena also made history by tying himself for second for most overall hits by a rookie in a single postseason with 21, equaling himself with the Astros' Yuli Gurriel in 2017 and coming in just one knock behind the Yankees' Derek Jeter in 1996.
The Rays activated Arozarena from their alternate site back at the end of August, and he made an instant impact by hitting .281/.382/.641 over 64 at-bats in 23 games. He also put on quick display his monumental power, as he belted seven homers and drove in 11 runs to solidify himself as a major piece of the Tampa Bay playoff picture.
His emergence as the Rays’ postseason hero is especially surprising given that it’s his first real impression as a member of the organization. Tampa Bay acquired Arozarena back in early January from St. Louis, who acquired No. 3 prospect Matthew Liberatore in addition to other assets in exchange. Arozarena appeared in 19 total games for the Cardinals, batting .300/.391/.500 with one homer.
“Ever since I got traded over, it’s felt like a family,” Arozarena said. “They welcomed me with open arms. They let me be myself. They let me have the freedom to be out there and be the player I want to be.”
Over four seasons in the Minors, Arozarena hit .289/.373/.471 with four teams. He hit 38 homers and drove in 151 runs over 331 games.
Jordan Wolf is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter: @byjordanwolf.