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October is here, and Randy Arozarena is ready to own it once again

John Romano | The Rays rookie began his encore from 2020 with the historic combo of a home run and steal of home in Game 1 against Boston.
Randy Arozarena slides into home plate as Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez anticipates the throw. The Rays' Brandon Lowe, left, and umpire Dan Bellino watch the play during the seventh inning Thursday night at Tropicana Field.
Randy Arozarena slides into home plate as Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez anticipates the throw. The Rays' Brandon Lowe, left, and umpire Dan Bellino watch the play during the seventh inning Thursday night at Tropicana Field. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Oct. 8
Updated Oct. 8

ST. PETERSBURG — The roar began in the leftfield bleachers, sweet, fast and sincere. There was no prompting from the scoreboard, and no mugging for the cameras. Just a heartfelt expression of excitement and gratitude.

Ran-dy, Ran-dy, Ran-dy!

If you had somehow forgotten, this is the sound of October in Tampa Bay. The first time we heard it in Game 1 of the American League Division Series was in between the fifth and sixth innings when Randy Arozarena took his place in leftfield following a towering home run he had hit just minutes earlier.

Ran-dy, Ran-dy, Ran-dy!

Surely, this is the melody of the postseason in Tampa Bay. Fans behind the Rays dugout sang it in glorious unison again in the seventh inning after Arozarena took off from third base and stole home like a flash from some bygone era of baseball.

Ran-dy, Ran-dy, Ran-dy!

Yes, this is the hymn of hope and prayer for a community of baseball fans. The Rays began their seventh postseason at Tropicana Field on Thursday night, beating the Red Sox 5-0 to renew their quest for the franchise’s first World Series title.

And who else but Arozarena should get the party started?

He led off the game with a walk and then followed third base coach Rodney Linares’ frantic waving to score on a double by Wander Franco after centerfielder Enrique Hernandez bobbled the ball. By night’s end, he had become the first player in major-league history to hit a home run and steal home in the same postseason game.

“This game is all about history,” manager Kevin Cash said. “Anytime you are putting your name in those categories Randy has done … I’ve never seen anything like it in 2020, and hopefully I’ll say that here at the end of 2021.”

Arozarena practically claimed October as his own last season and carried the Rays to within two victories of a Series title with a historic postseason that featured 10 home runs and a .377 batting average over 20 games.

He was 25 at the time and practically a stranger to major-league baseball. He had less than 100 plate appearances in the big leagues and was an unlikely candidate to win the American League Championship Series MVP award. And yet Arozarena became an overnight sensation with his high-octane style of play and a pair of cowboy boots he absconded from rookie pitcher Brent Honeywell and began wearing before games.

Randy Arozarena wears his postseason cowboy boots while chatting with Manuel Margot before Thursday night's Game 1 of the American League Division Series against Boston.
Randy Arozarena wears his postseason cowboy boots while chatting with Manuel Margot before Thursday night's Game 1 of the American League Division Series against Boston. [ JOHN ROMANO | Times ]
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So, right on cue, Arozarena had the cowboy boots on when the Rays came out of the dugout for batting practice before Thursday’s game.

“I put the boots on … just like I did before the first game of the playoffs last year, and in that game against the Yankees I hit a home run,” Arozarena said through team interpreter Manny Navarro. “I hit a home run (Thursday), so that just shows that the magic is working from the boots.”

“Maybe,” shortstop Wander Franco cracked, “I should wear them tomorrow.”

Wherever the magic is coming from, Arozarena should patent it. He was a fine player in the regular season for the Rays — he hit .274 with 20 homers and 20 steals, and is a leading candidate to win the Rookie of the Year Award — but he seems to rise to a new level in the postseason.

He finished Game 1 with the home run, the steal, two walks and three runs scored.

“What that guy does every single day on a baseball field is so special,” said left-hander Shane McClanahan, who threw five shutout innings in Game 1.

Randy Arozarena (56) connects for a solo homer in the fifth inning Thursday.
Randy Arozarena (56) connects for a solo homer in the fifth inning Thursday. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

The steal of home was a thing of beauty and precision, with Arozarena taking advantage of Boston’s extreme shift with Brandon Lowe at the plate. Arozarena told Linares that he was going to steal and then checked in the dugout for the go-ahead from Cash. He got a walking lead and then broke when left-hander Josh Taylor began his windup with his back to Arozarena.

Arozarena later told Fox reporter Ken Rosenthal that it was the first time he had ever stolen home, although Cash said the leftfielder is constantly pushing the boundaries on the bases.

“He has asked me all season long: ‘Verde, verde, verde, green light, green light.’ We’ve tried to manage that,” Cash said. “He finally got his 20th (stolen base) in New York in the last series. But he got the green light.”

You might think it would be daunting for a player to return to the postseason stage after what Arozarena did last season, but he seemed to embrace it from the moment he stepped on the field Thursday.

And his reward was a repeat serenade from fans as he did television interviews following the game.

“I go out there because I’m trying to give them a show, and I know they want to see something,” Arozarena said. “That’s what the game is for.”

And around here, it’s become the chorus of the season.

Ran-dy, Ran-dy, Ran-dy!

John Romano can be reached at jromano@tampabay.com. Follow @romano_tbtimes.

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