Wander Franco put forth an impressive opening act for the Tampa Bay Rays in his major-league debut on Tuesday night.
Baseball’s top prospect launched a tying, three-run home run in the fifth for his first career hit and finished 2-for-4, but it wasn’t enough as the Rays fell 9-5 to the Boston Red Sox in 11 innings.
Tampa Bay hopes for an encore from Franco on Wednesday night when the Rays host the Red Sox in the second contest of their three-game series.
“Pretty electric player,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said of Franco. “Win or lose, we’re trying to win ’em all, obviously, but (it was) a special day for Wander, his family. … (I’m) excited for him. You never forget that big-league debut. He checked a lot of boxes.”
At 20 years and 113 days of age, Franco became the youngest player to hit a home run in his major-league debut since Jurickson Profar (19 years, 195 days) did so in 2012.
Despite Franco’s heroics, Boston moved 1 1/2 games ahead of Tampa Bay atop the American League East and improved to 4-0 against the Rays this season.
“They’re the American League favorites,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said about Tampa Bay. “Everybody thought coming into the season that that team, they have a chance to get back to the World Series. (We’ve done) a good job against them.”
The Red Sox have won five of seven and 12 of their past 18 games overall.
The Rays are mired in a season-worst seven-game losing streak, their longest since dropping eight in a row — including six to the Red Sox — from March 30 — April 8, 2018.
Rays left-hander Rich Hill (5-2, 3.64 ERA) will look to bounce back from a couple of subpar starts when he faces his hometown team.
The 41-year-old Boston native gave up four runs in each of his last two starts after allowing two or fewer in each of his previous eight. Hill surrendered six hits, walked one and struck out five in five innings in a 6-5 defeat at Seattle last Thursday.
Hill has struggled against the Red Sox in his career, going 0-0 with a 12.86 ERA — his worst against any opponent — in seven prior appearances (one start). Hunter Renfroe is 7-for-21 with two homers and two RBIs against him, and J.D. Martinez is 2-for-9 with a homer and two RBIs opposite Hill.
Boston will turn to right-hander Garrett Richards (4-4, 4.36 ERA) as the veteran right-hander tries to bounce back from a poor showing in Atlanta.
Richards allowed a season-high-tying six runs — four earned — on seven hits with one walk and three strikeouts last Wednesday against the Braves. Despite Boston’s 10-8 win, Richards did not factor into the decision and has not earned a win since May 19.
In four prior starts against the Rays, Richards is 3-1 with a 4.22 ERA. He last faced Tampa Bay in June of 2015, tossing seven innings of two-run ball on four hits with a walk and seven strikeouts in a 6-2 win with the Los Angeles Angels.
Rays catcher Mike Zunino is a blistering 7-for-11 with a home run and five RBIs lifetime against Richards.
–Field Level Media