MINNEAPOLIS -- Despite being on the road, Rays outfielder Randy Arozarena had a group of fans in left field at Target Field chanting his name whenever he came to the plate and when he would head out to his spot in left.
Arozarena enjoys the attention, and he played up to the crowd by talking and waving at times. Then he gave them something to cheer about.
Arozarena hit an inside-the-park home run in the seventh inning of Tampa Bay’s 9-4 loss to the Twins on Friday. Vidal Bruján followed with his first career home run, giving the Rays a bit of positivity -- and a glimpse at the future -- on a night when their three-game winning streak ended.
“I think the fans love me, and I think it's fun to have fun with them,” Arozarena said through interpreter Manny Navarro. “It helps me play a little bit better. It makes me happy, and I think that's why I get the results I do."
Arozarena said he hears his name chanted in a few stadiums around the league, and he appreciates the connection with the fans.
It was the first career inside-the-park home run for Arozarena, but it was the second for Tampa Bay this season after Kevin Kiermaier had one on May 24 at home against Miami.
Coincidentally, Kiermaier also had one in Minnesota last season.
“That [right-field] wall is a tricky wall,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “It ricochets off that, and Randy was getting after it. Around second, felt that he had a chance."
Arozarena hit a high fly ball deep to the wall in right-center field. Twins outfielder Nick Gordon made a leaping attempt to catch it. That’s when the speedy Arozarena really turned on the jets.
“I knew just from the fly balls from my teammates earlier in the game, I knew the ball probably wasn't going to fly too much,” Arozarena said. “Yeah, once I saw it fall, that's when I started taking off a little bit more."
It was Arozarena’s seventh home run of the season. He added an RBI groundout the following inning. He has three homers and 10 RBIs in nine games in June.
Bruján added to the excitement, hitting his first homer on the next pitch from Minnesota starter Devin Smeltzer.
“Been waiting for it, and glad I got it done here,” Bruján said through Navarro.
Bruján was able to get the ball back, trading a pair of signed baseballs for the keepsake.
“I actually have a room that I'm getting set up that's going to be a lot of the memorabilia from all my Major League achievements,” Bruján said.
Bruján has had a tough start to his Major League career, entering the day hitting .143 in 26 games this season. He’s on his second promotion from Triple-A Durham in 2022. He also played in 10 games last year, hitting .077.
“I've seen a young player that's got a ton of athleticism that has shown glimpses of doing special things,” Cash said. “And then he's shown glimpses of being a very young player. I think we owe it to him and the rest of the guys in that category to be very patient with and know that they're going to be better for the reps that they're getting."