Arozarena hits rookie record 7th playoff HR

October 18th, 2020

SAN DIEGO -- The legend of now includes a statement Game 7 home run.

The Rays' left fielder has been the breakout star of the 2020 postseason, and he remained red-hot at the plate on Saturday evening, launching his seventh homer of the playoffs in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series to set an MLB rookie record and help lift Tampa Bay to a 4-2 win. His efforts also earned him the ALCS MVP Award, becoming the first rookie position player to receive the honor.

Arozarena got a thigh-high fastball from Astros starter Lance McCullers Jr. with a runner on first in the first inning, and he made no mistake, sending it a Statcast-projected 416 feet into the beach area at Petco Park.

"I broke the record," he said. "I had six, then I [hit] seven today. We’ve been facing some great pitchers and great teams, but the ball is looking good. The ball is looking really nice."

It was Arozarena's fourth home run of the ALCS, and perhaps his most important. With one swing, Tampa Bay had an early 2-0 lead. It was an emphatic opening for a club reeling after three consecutive losses.

At this point, nothing Arozarena does should be considered surprising. Following his home run, he was hitting .375 with 11 extra-base hits this postseason, a Rays single-season playoff record. His 21 hits were one shy of Derek Jeter’s 1996 showing for the most by a rookie in postseason history.

Beyond rookie records, Arozarena is looking at some serious history if he can homer again. He’s one shy of the single-season playoff record of eight home runs, held by Barry Bonds in 2002, Carlos Beltrán in '04 and Nelson Cruz in '11.

Arozarena is also two homers shy of the all-time Rays postseason record held by Evan Longoria. In 2008, Longoria hit six postseason homers as a rookie, holding that record until Arozarena broke it Saturday.

Arozarena entered the playoffs as a little-known rookie outfielder who had arrived from St. Louis in an offseason trade. He missed the first month of the regular season while on the COVID-19 injured list. He finished strong, but few could have predicted this kind of other-worldly October.