Rays vs. Red Sox score: Tampa takes ALDS Game 1 as Randy Arozarena, Wander Franco shine
The Rays took a 1-0 series lead on Thursday in the ALDS
The Tampa Bay Rays have taken a 1-0 lead in the ALDS against the Red Sox with a convincing 5-0 win Thursday night in Tropicana Field. The AL East champion Rays are now two wins away from reaching the ALCS for the second straight season, while Boston will try to rebound behind ace Chris Sale in Game 2 on Friday.
Here were some takeaways from the Rays' 5-0 victory.
Cruz moving up the record books
Nelson Cruz hit his 18th career postseason home run in the bottom of the third inning -- a unique shot that hit the Tropicana Field catwalk. Cruz is now tied for sixth on the all-time list with Mickey Mantle, Reggie Jackson and Jose Altuve. Can you guess the top five? It's included in the full story here.
The Red Sox hit the ball hard with no results to show for it
If you are a Red Sox fan, you've probably had a rough night of screaming obscenities over how many times they crushed the ball right at a Rays defender. They had nine hits, but they had 16 hard hit balls, or those with 95 miles per hour or higher in exit velocity. The second inning was particularly rough with a 102.5-mph Alex Verdugo shot being a fielder's choice (though he reached on an error) and 105.3 mpg off the bat of Bobby Dalbec being a double play. Next inning they had three 98-plus groundouts. The eye test lined up with the readings. They are crushing the ball right at defenders, seemingly all night. They only struck out five times all game and didn't score. Some of that is Rays defensive positioning, but some of it is just bad fortune.
It should be pointed out that the Red Sox did load the bases in the eighth for Rafael Devers, but he struck out and then Hunter Renfroe popped out to end the inning.
Playoff Arozarena is back
Rays outfielder Randy Arozarena made all kinds of history last postseason. He hit .377/.442/.841 in his 20 games along with three doubles, a triple and 10 homers. He set records for the most hits, total bases and home runs in a single postseason (note: There was an extra round last year, so he appeared in more games).
Thursday, he went yard again:
Later in the game, he stole home.
He's the first player to steal home in a playoff game since Javier Báez did so in Game 1 of the 2016 NLCS. He's the first player ever to hit a home run and steal home in the same playoff game (via MLB Stats).
Arozarena was good during the regular season, but wasn't star-caliber. If he's going to go on another big playoff run, the Rays get awfully scary.
Wander Franco got the scoring going with an RBI double in the first inning. The Rays' youngster is just 20 years old. He's the second-youngest player with an RBI in his first playoff game after Manny Machado in the 2012 Wild Card Game (via StatsCentre). He would add another double later in the game, making him the first player in MLB history to have multiple extra-base hits in both his MLB debut and playoff debut (via STATS).
Franco got off to a slow start upon promotion to the majors -- understandable, given his age -- but once things clicked, they really clicked. In his last 43 games, he hit .331/.388/.535 and only struck out 12 times while taking 14 walks.
There isn't much time to rest. Game 2 is at 7:02 p.m. ET in Tampa Bay (yes, I know the ballpark is in St. Petersburg) Friday night. It'll be the third playoff game out of four, so get ready for a fun day of baseball. Rookie Shane Baz gets the ball for the Rays against veteran ace Chris Sale. I think we probably have to call this a "must-win" game for the Red Sox.
the Red Sox loaded the bases with an assist from the Trop roof, but then Rafael Devers struck out and Hunter Renfroe popped out in foul territory. They had a chance to change the complexion of the game with their best hitter coming up and he couldn't come through.
The jump Arozarena got on that steal of home was truly something.
Rays lead 4-0 and are now 94.7 percent to win Game 1.
Randy Arozarena now has 11 postseason home runs in 26 games.
That's now eight hard-hit balls in four innings by the Red Sox. Still no runs on the board.
Cruz now sixth all-time in postseason homers
Nelson Cruz's solo homer off the catwalk was his 18th career postseason homer. That is tied for sixth all-time. Here's the leaderboard:
1. Manny Ramirez: 29
2. Bernie Williams: 22
3. Derek Jeter: 20
4. George Springer: 19
5. Albert Pujols: 19
6. Nelson Cruz: 18 (tied with Reggie Jackson, Jose Altuve, and Mickey Mantle)
There are more rounds and more postseason games these days, so of course the leaderboard is all modern players. You still have to produce in those games to make the leaderboard though. Cruz is one of the most productive postseason power hitters in history.