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Randy Arozarena leads the way as Rays beat Orioles

The 2020 postseason star’s return to form helps Tampa Bay overcome four errors. Also, Francisco Mejia has five RBIs.
Rays leftfielder Randy Arozarena celebrates after a homer in the third inning against the Baltimore Orioles Tuesday at Tropicana Field.
Rays leftfielder Randy Arozarena celebrates after a homer in the third inning against the Baltimore Orioles Tuesday at Tropicana Field. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published Jul. 21
Updated Jul. 21

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays aren’t ready to say Randy Arozarena is back to looking like his record-smashing October breakout form.

“I don’t know of any player that’s looked that way,” manager Kevin Cash cracked.

But they are certainly encouraged with what they’ve seen lately, as Arozarena’s bat has been noticeably quicker the last four or five days since he narrowed his stance, he is being more selective at the plate and is doing damage on pitches he was previously struggling with.

Two hits Monday were a good sign, and Tuesday’s performance even better as Arozarena laced a leadoff double and blasted his first homer in more than a month to lead the Rays to a 9-3 win over the Orioles.

“I feel good,” Arozarena said via team interpreter Manny Navarro. “I’m very thankful that I’m able to have the results that I have in the last couple of days. But what I’m mostly happy about is that we got the win and we got the victory.”

Tampa Bay Rays third base coach Rodney Linares (27) high fives  catcher Francisco Mejia (28) after beating the Baltimore Orioles 9-3 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg on Tuesday, July 20, 2021.
Tampa Bay Rays third base coach Rodney Linares (27) high fives catcher Francisco Mejia (28) after beating the Baltimore Orioles 9-3 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg on Tuesday, July 20, 2021. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

It helped Tuesday that catcher Francisco Mejia had a career night, with a two-run homer and a bases-clearing triple for a personal-best five RBI, and threw out a runner. Plus, he won his first YouTube award, the player of the game trophy.

“I think this is the best game I’ve ever had in the big leagues, and it feels really good,” Mejia said via Navarro.

The Rays needed all the offense they could muster as they were sloppy in the field, posting their first four-error game since May 19, 2019 and winning for the first time when doing so since 2009. The also threw three wild pitches.

Shane McClanahan battled through five innings for the win, and Pete Fairbanks delivered another clutch relief appearance with two huge outs after the O’s got within 5-3 in the eighth.

The win improved the Rays to 56-39 and moved them to within one game of the American League East -leading Red Sox, who were rained out Tuesday.

Arozarena has been okay this year and somewhat inconsistent, hitting .251 with 11 homers, 43 RBIs and a .739 OPS. He has been struggling of late, hitting .098 (4-for-41) with two extra base in a 13-game stretch through Sunday, going 21 games (since June 17) without a homer until Tuesday.

However unfair the comparison, that’s a long way from the dynamic performance he showed and impact he had in 20 October games, hitting .377 with 10 homers, 14 RBIs and 1.273 OPS. But the Rays have hoped to see glimpses of that form and feel now he may be on to something.

“Very, very encouraging,” Cash said. “He’s such a big part of our offense, our team. Glad to see Randy’s kind of coming out of it.

“There’s going to be times throughout the season where you go quiet, and maybe his was this last three weeks, month, whatever it is. But he certainly looks like he’s coming out of it and helping us in a big way.”

Playing the O’s seems to help, as Arozarena is hitting .438 (14-for-32) with five homers and 14 RBIs in seven games against them.

Hitting coach Chad Mottola said coaches often tell Arozarena how much they need him to produce, balancing the motivation of knowing he hates to be out of the lineup with not putting unnecessary pressure on him.

“We’re a better team when he’s going good,” Mottola said.

Tampa Bay Rays left fielder Randy Arozarena (56) celebrates with designated hitter Austin Meadows (17) as right fielder Brett Phillips (35) looks on after a homer in the third inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg on Tuesday, July 20, 2021.
Tampa Bay Rays left fielder Randy Arozarena (56) celebrates with designated hitter Austin Meadows (17) as right fielder Brett Phillips (35) looks on after a homer in the third inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg on Tuesday, July 20, 2021. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

Arozarena said he appreciates the support.

“That gives me a lot of confidence,” he said. “Everybody wants to play every day. I want to play every day. And that just gives me the confidence to be able to help. All I really want to do is just win.”

While he works tirelessly to get his swing figured out, he said he also sought some outside assistance.

“I actually talked to my wife and I said, ‘Hey, can God please give me some more hits? Please, that’s all I need.’”

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