ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — For a few fleeting moments, the famously cavernous and dull Tropicana Field was the most electric venue in all of sports.
Randy Arozarena, already the author of two thrilling plays on the night, stood on third base with two outs in the seventh inning. Red Sox lefty Josh Taylor was on the mound, his back turned to Arozarena and completely unaware of the speedster's bad intentions.
Arozarena took off. The crowd roared with anticipation. By the time Taylor realized what was happening, it was too late.
Arozarena's straight steal of home blew the roof off The Trop, prompting deafening chants of "Randy! Randy!" to rain down from the 27,419 fans in attendance. It also served as a pointed exclamation mark on the Rays decisive 5-0 win in Game 1 of the American League Divisional Series.
"It's a great baseball play," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora of Arozarena's steal. "You know, I think JT was actually paying attention, but probably two strikes, you know, he had (Brandon Lowe) with two strikes and probably the concentration was with the hitter. Just put him away, and Randy had an amazing job, and that was an amazing baseball play."
The Red Sox were outplayed from the jump, falling behind in the first inning while failing to mount any sustained offense throughout. While the Sox did record nine hits in the loss, they were scattered throughout and all only for singles. Boston also didn't record any walks, and in the one good scoring chance with the bases loaded and one out in the eighth, the Red Sox couldn't capitalize.
Tampa Bay was aggressive early, taking the lead after Arozarena led off the game with a walk and scored from first on a Wander Franco double, which Kiké Hernández bobbled to provide the opening for Arozarena to sprint through. Franco came in to score shortly afterwards on an infield single by Yandy Diaz.
Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez, meanwhile, did not have his command and was removed from the game after recording only five outs. His final at bat was a strikeout of Kevin Kiermaier, but with the top of the lineup coming up Red Sox manager Alex Cora made the change.
"My command wasn't great at all on every pitch so I wasn't surprised at all," Rodriguez said. "This is the playoffs and you've got to go out there and do your job. If you don't do it you're coming out of the game."
Garrett Richards recorded the final out of the second inning to strand a runner at third, and Nick Pivetta came on and stabilized things with 4.2 strong innings of relief.
During that time Pivetta only allowed two solo home runs, though both were notable. The first came in the third when Nelson Cruz hit a fly ball off Tropicana Field's C-ring catwalk, which by rule is a home run. The second was a towering shot by Arozarena, who left no room for doubt with his homer in the fifth.
He was replaced by Taylor with two outs in the seventh after Arozarena walked and Franco doubled again. When Arozarena stole home, he became the first player to do so in the postseason since Javy Baez did it for the Chicago Cubs in Game 1 of the 2016 NLCS.
"I noticed that the pitcher wasn't really watching for me or covering for me, and I saw the third baseman was pretty far away in respect to where I was at," Arozarena said. "I was looking over to (the third base coach), telling him, hey, I'm going to go, I'm going to go. Peeked over and saw Cash give him the green light as well, so that's when I decided to take off."
Rays rookie Shane McClanahan earned the win with five scoreless innings, and JT Chargois, David Robertson and J.P. Feyereisen combined for four scoreless innings out of the bullpen to complete the shutout.
Game 2 will be Friday at 7:02 p.m. at Tropicana Field.