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Boston Spoils Franco’s Big Debut In Extra Innings

photo: Will Vragovic/Tampa Bay Rays

Wander Franco‘s major league debut was everything it was cracked up to be, as the 20-year-old’s three-run homer erased a 5-2 deficit, but Pete Fairbanks allowed four runs in the eleventh inning to allow the Boston Red Sox to defeat the Tampa Bay Rays 9-5 Tuesday at Tropicana Field.

Franco got a standing ovation from the largest crowd to see a Rays game since the end of the 2019 season — with an announced attendance 12,994 at the ballpark before his first plate appearance in the bottom of the first, in which he would rebound from being down 0-2 to draw a walk and advance Yandy Diaz, who reached on an error to begim the inning, into scoring position.  Randy Arozarena would load the bases two batters later on an infield hit, and Francisco Mejia would get both Diaz and Franco home on an infield single coupled with an error by Bogaerts.

Ryan Yarbrough, who took over for Andrew Kittredge after the right-hander opened by facing the four batters, ran into trouble in the third, giving up a two-run double to J.D. Martinez, a sacrifice fly by Devers, and a two-run homer from Hunter Renfroe in the inning.  He would end up throwing 41 of his 67 pitches in the frame and would need Ryan Thompson to strike out Bobby Dalbec to finish the inning.

Boston would hold on to that three-run lead until the fifth, when Red Sox starter hit Kevin Kiermaier with a pitch, then gave up a single to Diaz in front of Franco, who took a first-pitch off-speed pitch and sent it into the seats in left for his first Major League hit.

Collin McHugh worked three scoreless innings of relief to keep things tied, with Matt Wisler working a scoreless seventh, and J.P. Feyereisen putting up zeroes in the eighth and ninth.

But the Rays bats could not take advantage of runners in scoring position late.  Tampa Bay stranded Franco at second base after his double off Josh Taylor in the seventh, Arozarena at second in the eighth after his leadoff single against Adam Ottavino, and Diaz at second in the ninth after reaching on a fielder’s choice and moving to second on a Franco groundout.

Tampa Bay somehow got through the top of the tenth without allowing a run, as Boston ran themselves out of the inning with Dalbec being thrown out at the plate and Alex Verdugo being caught trying to steal second.  But the Rays couldn’t manufacture the winning run in the bottom of the inning.  The Red Sox then got a two-run double by Devers, an RBI single by Renfroe and a sacrifice fly by Kike Hernandez to set the scoring at 9-5.

The loss drops Tampa Bay a game and a half behind the Red Sox for the lead in the American League East, and stretches their losing streak to seven straight games, their longest losing streak since May 31-June 8, 2018.

The Rays will look to Rich Hill (5-2, 3.64 ERA) to try and end the skid, when he takes on Garrett Richards (4-4, 4.36 ERA) in Wednesday’s middle game.  First pitch is scheduled for 7:10.

Written By

Steve Carney is the founder and publisher of St. Pete Nine. One of the people most associated with baseball coverage in Tampa Bay, he spent 13 seasons covering the Rays for flagship radio station WDAE, first as producer of Rays Radio broadcasts, then as beat reporter beginning in 2011. He likes new analytics and aged bourbon, and is the owner of one of the ugliest knuckleballs ever witnessed by baseball scouts.

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