Wander Franco delivered immediate dividends on Tuesday after one of the most-anticipated baseball call-ups in years.
Facing a three-game series against the Boston Red Sox with first place in the AL East at stake, the Tampa Bay Rays announced on Sunday that they were promoting Franco from Triple-A. The 20-year-old infielder has been the consensus top prospect in baseball for two years.
Franco started at third base on Tuesday while batting second in the Tampa Bay lineup. He walked and eventually scored in his first at-bat. He flied out to center in his second. When he approached the plate for his third at-bat in the fifth inning, the Rays had two men on while trailing, 5-2.
And Franco did this:
That's a game-tying, 362-foot home run over the left field wall off Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez.
His dad was hyped.
In his next at-bat, Franco hit a double that bounced off the left-field wall. He was stranded at second base with the game still tied at 5-5.
Later, he flashed his glove while turning a double-play in the eighth inning. Franco fielded a Hunter Renfroe ground ball before forcing Rafael Devers off the base path and throwing to first force Renfroe out. The double-play ended the inning.
Red Sox prevail in extra innings
Franco had a chance to play the ultimate hero with the game tied at 5-5 and a man on first in the bottom of the ninth. He grounded out, and the game eventually went to extra innings. The Red Sox won, 9-5 thanks to three hits in the top of the 11th. Boston now has a 1 1/2 game lead over Tampa Bay for first place in the division.
Francos's final line
The loss was a disappointing seventh straight for the Rays. But they can take comfort in Franco's debut. And he'll have another shot at the Red Sox on Wednesday.
Franco finished 2-for-4 at the plate with a walk, a home run, two runs scored and three RBIs, following through on the promise he showed with the Triple-A Durham Bulls this season. In 38 games in Durham, Franco slashed .323/.376/.601 with seven home runs, 35 RBIs and four stolen bases in 173 plate appearances.
He said in February he was ready to join the big leagues, and the Rays gave him his shot at a critical juncture in their season. Early returns suggest they won't regret the decision.
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