Franco HR, double in debut, but Rays lose to Red Sox in 11th

Sports

Tampa Bay Rays’ Wander Franco celebrates his three-run home run off Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez with Randy Arozarena (56) during the fifth inning of a baseball game Tuesday, June 22, 2021, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — As advertised, Wander Franco got off to a tremendous start for the Tampa Bay Rays with his production — and prediction.

Franco hit a three-run homer and doubled in his big league debut for the Rays, who lost their seventh straight in falling to the Boston Red Sox 9-5 in 11 innings Tuesday night.

The 20-year-old Franco, considered the best prospect in the minor leagues, connected in the fifth off Eduardo Rodriguez and drew his first curtain call in the majors.

“In that at-bat I actually knew I was going to hit a home run because that was the pitch I was looking for,” Franco said through an interpreter. “I ended up getting the pitch that I was looking for and I was able to help the team out.”

Franco pointed toward his father, who was at the game, while crossing the plate. He got the ball back and plans to display it at his home in the Dominican Republic.

“I felt super good,” Franco said through an interpreter. ”God sent me a surprise with all this.”

Praised Rays manager Kevin Cash: “Pretty electric player.”

“Win or loss, we’re trying to win them all obviously, but it had to be a great day for Wander and his family. A talented player that’s going to be fun to watch in the coming months,” he said.

Franco doubled in the seventh and finished 2 for 4 with a walk. The switch-hitting infielder came up with one out and a runner on first in the ninth, and grounded out to the mound.

“What a good player he is,” Boston manager Alex Cora said. “The way he controls the at-bat for how young he is. They have a special one.”

Rafael Devers hit a hard grounder that went between first baseman Yandy Díaz’s legs for a two-run double during Boston’s four-run 11th off Pete Fairbanks (1-3).

Darwinzon Hernandez (2-2) went 1 1/3 scoreless innings, retiring Brandon Lowe with two on and two outs in the 10th.

Hunter Renfroe homered for the AL East-leading Red Sox. Rodriguez allowed five runs and seven hits over six innings, and had his winless streak reach eight games.

Renfroe had an RBI single and Kike Hernández hit a sacrifice fly in the 11th.

Called up from Triple-A Durham earlier in the day, Franco received a nice ovation when he went on the field to run pregame. Some fans at Tropicana Field stood when Rays’ lineup was announced over the public-address system and the salute grew to full standing ovation with fans in the left field stands chanting ‘Wander Franco” as he walked to the plate to bat in the first.

Batting second and debuting at third base, Franco alertly began a double play in the eighth. It came after Devers doubled off an overhanging catwalk.

Franco fielded Renfroe’s grounder and ran toward Devers, who was called for running out the base line trying to advance. Franco then threw to first to complete the play.

J.D. Martinez drove in two with a double, Devers had a sacrifice fly and Renfroe hit a two-run homer off Ryan Yarbrough as Boston went up 5-2 in the third.

Francisco Mejía drove in a run with an infield single in the first, with Franco scoring the second run on shortstop Xander Bogaerts’ errant throw to second trying to get a forceout.

WEIRD OUTS

Tampa Bay’s Kevin Kiermaier was out at second in the ninth after 2B Hernández lost the ball trying to make a tag — the ball went to Bogaerts, who picked it up and stepped on the bag. … Boston’s Bobby Dalbec was thrown at the plate trying to score from third in the 10th after Fairbanks’ pitch got past catcher Mike Zunino. “It was a crazy game,” Cora said.

ANOTHER ROOKIE

C Connor Wong was called up from Triple-A Worcester by Boston before the game and made his major league debut as a pinch-runner at second to start the 11th. He scored on Devers’ go-ahead hit.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Red Sox: LHP Chris Sale (Tommy John surgery) will throw to hitters on Saturday. … C Kevin Plawecki, hurt Sunday, went on the 10-day IL with a left hamstring strain. … INF Christian Arroyo (bruised right shin bone) could be available on Wednesday.

UP NEXT

Boston RHP Garrett Richards (4-4) and Rays LHP Rich Hill (5-2) are Wednesday night’s starters.

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