October 5, 2022

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More baserunning madness by Arozarena

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CHICAGO — When in doubt, Randy Arozarena has seemingly stumbled upon a successful strategy for running the bases: Just keep going.

It worked for him in Game 4 of the 2020 World Series, when he sprinted and slipped and stretched to score the Rays’ winning run in one of the wildest finishes in recent memory. And it worked for him in the Minor Leagues when he skied a popup back to the mound and wound up on third base.

It worked again in the Rays’ 3-2 loss to the White Sox on Saturday afternoon at Guaranteed Rate Field. Batting with Brandon Lowe on first base and one out in the first inning, Arozarena hit a grounder off Michael Kopech to the left side of the infield. White Sox third baseman Josh Harrison scooped it up and fired wide of first baseman José Abreu, and Arozarena initially seemed content to take the infield single while Lowe wheeled around to third base.

Then Arozarena, who came to a stop down the first-base line just onto the edge of the outfield grass, put his strategy into action. He took off toward second as Abreu slowly picked up the ball, but he was caught in between first and second when Abreu made a throw to shortstop Tim Anderson.

Anderson ran down Arozarena, who slipped as he tried to turn around — a moment oddly reminiscent of Game 4.

“Almost like it,” Arozarena said through interpreter Manny Navarro.

But that caused Anderson, whose momentum carried him past Arozarena, to miss the tag and wind up behind the Rays outfielder. Arozarena took a few more steps toward second and flung himself to the bag, reaching out with his left hand before Anderson could tag him and losing his helmet in the process.

The Rays’ next hitter, Harold Ramírez, hit a sacrifice fly that scored Lowe and gave Tampa Bay a 1-0 lead.

“I think because I slipped, I was able to beat him to the base,” Arozarena said through Navarro.

Arozarena’s baserunning adventure was just the beginning of an eventful afternoon on the South Side. After being called out on strikes against Reynaldo López in the sixth inning — strike three appeared to be below the zone — Arozarena flipped his bat in disgust and was ejected by home-plate umpire Junior Valentine, the outfielder’s first career ejection.

“It was a tight game at that point, and I thought the umpire made a bad call. So I was upset about it, so I threw the bat,” Arozarena said through Navarro. “I thought it was low. We’re both just human beings. I thought he got the call wrong, and I shouldn’t have thrown the bat.”

It was the Rays’ first ejection of any kind — player, coach, manager — since Sept. 1, 2020. That was the night Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman threw a 101 mph fastball over former Rays infielder Mike Brosseau’s head, prompting a benches-clearing incident that ended with manager Kevin Cash being ejected before delivering his memorable “I’ve got a whole damn stable full of guys that throw 98 miles an hour” postgame statement.

I thought the pitch, it was close. You’re going to get some of those pitches; sometimes you’re not,” Cash said Saturday of Arozarena’s ejection. “Ideally, there’s probably a better way to show frustration right there. As soon as you throw something, you’re going to get thrown out of the ballgame. And that’s what Junior Valentine did.”

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