Down 1-0 entering the bottom of the fourth with Astros starter Framber Valdez cruising, Arozarena took a 92.7 mph sinker on the outside edge and drove it to right-center field. Carrying 413 feet with an exit velocity of 108.5 mph off the bat, it cleared the wall in one of the deepest parts of Petco Park to pull the Rays even.
Had Arozarena sold out to try and pull that outside pitch from Valdez, he could have easily rolled over the top of it for the second out of the inning. Instead, Arozarena’s ability to control his aggression and channel it, this time to the opposite field, is what left manager Kevin Cash most impressed.
Ask Cash to explain what Arozarena is accomplishing at the plate, though, and he is starting to run out of adjectives.
“I really can’t [describe it]. I wish I could. I don’t even know if I want to get in the way of it right now,” Cash said after the win. “It’s very remarkable how he doesn’t know any of these guys that he’s facing, but he’s locked in at the plate, he’s timed up, and for a guy who swings as aggressively as he does, he’s not trying to sit there and pull everything. Some of his best shots have been to right-center.”
It was yet another big moment on the big stage for the 25-year-old, who batted .444 with a 1.426 OPS through seven games in the AL Wild Card Series vs. the Blue Jays and the AL Division Series against the Yankees.
The Rays will take home runs from Arozarena in any inning of any game, but his timing on Sunday night was particularly good. Before the ball left his bat in the bottom of the fourth, the Rays had managed just a third-inning double by Kevin Kiermaier, which was quickly erased when he tried to steal third base, and they didn’t appear to be all that close to figuring out Valdez.
Arozarena has a way of injecting life into this Rays lineup at the right time.
“I think everyone’s in awe every time he steps in the box,” said catcher Mike Zunino. “He’s done everything he possibly could for this lineup. He’s a spark plug. If he gets on, he can steal a base, then there’s the power surge he’s had. He just really ignites our lineup and gives us a bunch of energy.”
The home run puts Arozarena in great company, as he became just the fifth rookie in Major League history with four-plus big flies in a single postseason. Both Aaron Judge (2017) and Miguel Cabrera (‘03) hit four as rookies. Kyle Schwarber (‘15) hit five, and Evan Longoria (with the Rays in ‘08) launched six. Arozarena still has plenty of time to climb that leaderboard.
“Randy’s as bright as any spot or any player in this entire postseason in MLB,” Cash said.
The blast also gave Arozarena seven extra-base hits this postseason, which is the third-most by a Rays hitter in club history, trailing only BJ Upton and Longoria in 2008, when Tampa Bay fell to the Phillies in the World Series.