(St. Petersburg) Randy Arozarena and Wander Franco set the tone and led the Tampa Bay Rays to a 5-0 victory over the Boston Red Sox on Thursday night in Game 1 of this series.
Arozarena, Ray’s leading hitter, set Tropicana Field on fire by hitting a home run and using speed to steal the home record.
Franco, the second to start in the battle order, was not left to hit two doubles, including the one that allowed the Rays to take the lead in the first half.
Meanwhile, Southpaw Shane McClanahan limited the Red Sox to just five hits in five innings of work.
The Rays, who have recorded 100 wins this season to present the American’s best record, took a 1-0 lead in this section. The second clash takes place on Friday night.
The Boston troops lacked opportunism during this meeting, hitting only one hit when a player was in a position to score. She especially left the pillows filled in the eighth round, when the Rays led 5-0.
The Red Sox relied on Eduardo Rodriguez to start the series, but things quickly got sour.
After Arozarena went down in the first set, Franco opened the scoring with a powerful center double. Ray’s rookie advanced 90 feet and crossed the plate after a Yandy Diaz single.
Rodriguez took out two opponents in the second half, but manager Alex Cora quickly turned to the relief box. Right-hander Nick Pivetta had two strikeouts in the third, but was met by a long ball from Nelson Cruz.
The Bostonians threatened in the fourth round, after singles from Rafael Devers and Alex Verdugo, but McClanahan extinguished the threat by forcing Bobby Dalbec to hit an arrow against Diaz.
That was when Arozarena ran the show. He first increased Ray’s lead to 4-0 in the fifth inning with a resounding homerun to the left field. The 26-year-old Cuban set a Majors record last year with 10 kicks from four playoff goals.
Arozarena then lifted the crowd by stealing the home record in the seventh round. He became the first player to steal the home record in the playoffs since Javier Baez, in the first match of the 2016 National Championship Series.
Moments earlier, Franco had become the first player in Major Baseball history to hit at least two more than one hit in his career season and playoff debut.
The door opened for the Red Sox in the eighth inning, but the opportunity was wasted. Christian Arroyo and Kyle Schwarber hit a single before Xander Bogaerts managed to place a ball to midfield after it was lost in the reflectors.
However, relief JP Feyereisen did a very good job of taking out Devers on catches and Hunter Renfroe on a light.
The two teams meet in the playoffs for the first time since 2013.