Wander Franco Homers Twice, But Rays Fall To Red Sox 4-3

Franco Becomes Youngest In Franchise History With Multi-Homer Game

Tampa, FL – Wander Franco first multi-homer game of his career wasn’t enough as the Boston Red Sox staved off a 9th inning rally and defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 4-3. Michael Wacha (1-0, 1.8 ERA) picks up the win for Boston who improve to 7-7 on the season. Matt Barnes retired Wander Franco to end the game with the bases loaded to secure the victory and earning his first save of the season.

Corey Kluber (0-1, 3.68 ERA) takes the loss for Tampa Bay who see their record fall back to .500 at 7-7. Tampa Bay trailed 4-3 entering the 9th inning against Jake Diekman and mounted a rally but Boston was bailed out by their defense. In particular Trevor Strory.

Story’s Defense Thwarts Rays:

Taylor Walls and Manny Margot both walked and Harold Ramirez sent a hard groundball up the middle that Trevor Story made a diving stop to get the force out at 2nd and keep Taylor Walls at 3rd. Mike Zunino fell behind 0-2 but worked a walk to load the bases for Brandon Lowe. Lowe was unable to deliver the big hit and struck out to bring Wander Franco to the plate. Boston replaced Diekman, who had made 28 pitches, with Matt Barnes. Franco sent a hard groundball toward right field, but Story once again was the man on the scene with a sliding stop to retire Franco and end the game.

More Than Just Story With The Leather:

Despite making three errors on the night, Boston’s defense thwarted the Rays more than just the two Story plays in the ninth. In the 3rd inning with 2-on and 2-out Yandy Diaz sent a 110.7 mph linedrive that a Xander Bogaerts made a leaping catch on. The ball would have made it to the alley scoring at least one run, maybe two.

With one out in the sixth inning, Yandy Diaz sent a soft blooper just off the line in shallow left field. Alex Verdugo raced over and fired a bullet to second to retire Diaz trying to stretch the single into a double.

Bullpen Retires A Perfect Dozen:

Other than Wander Franco, the bright spot for the Rays was their bullpen. Corey Kluber did yeoman’s work to get through five despite allowing four runs. “It could have gone sideways pretty quick,” Kevin Cash said of Corey Kluber’s outing. Three relievers followed Kluber and retired all 12 batters they faced. Javy Guerra worked an inning, Colin Poche returned and logged a scoreless frame, and Phoenix Sanders deliverd two scoreless innings.

Wander Flashes The Leather:

While Boston’s stellar defensive plays seemed to snuff out Rays’ rallies they weren’t the highlight of the night. That belongs to Wander Franco who showed his defensive skills. In the top of the sixth inning Christian Vazquez sent a fly ball down the left field line. Franco raced from his shortstop position to near the Red Sox bullpen and made the catch. It was spectacular to watch.

Kluber Roughed Up:

Prior to tonight, Corey Kluber had faced 39 batters in 9.2-innings of work and allowed just 7 hits. Boston tagged him for nine hits in the first three innings (17 batters faced). With Saturday being a bullpen day, Tampa Bay was going to lean on Kluber for innings and hoped that the veteran could figure things out.

Kluber’s final line was 5-innings, 4 earned runs, on 11 hits, while striking out 3 three and walking one. He threw 89 pitches with 61 for strikes. The 11 hits allowed were the second most in his career for any single game. The most hits he had allowed was to the Chicago White Sox on April 22, 2015. (https://stathead.com/tiny/cHUq1).

Wander Goes Yard Twice:

Wander Franco hit his second homer of the season in the bottom of the first inning and his third homer in the bottom of the fifth. It marked the first multi-homer game of his career. At 21 years and 52 days old he becomes the youngest Rays player to have a multi-homer game. It’s his eighth multi-hit game of the season.

His first homer traveled 389 feet at an exit velocity of 109.3 mph, the second homer traveled 363 feet at an exit velocity of 112.4 mph.

Mejia To Covid IL, Pinto Called Up

Prior to the game the Rays placed catcher Francisco Mejia on the Covid IL as a result of a positive test. To take his place on the roster Tampa Bay recalled catcher Rene Pinto from the Triple-A Durham Bulls. Mejia is off to a great start batting .348 (8×23) with a pair of homers and a team leading 10 RBI.

Pinto, 25, will be making his first appearance in the big leagues. He had a breakout season split between Double-A and Triple-A in 2021 batting .274/.325/.500 with 20 homers spanning 382 plate appearances. This season with the Bulls he’s appeared in 12 games and is batting .268 (11×41). He’s yet to homer but does have three doubles among his 11 hits.

Mazza To IL, Poche Returns

Prior to Friday’s game the Rays placed reliever Chris Mazza on the 10-day injured list (retroactive to April 18) with back spasm’s and recalled reliever Colin Poche from Durham.

Poche hasn’t appeared in a big league game since Game 5 of the American League Division Series against the Houston Astros on October 10, 2019. He injured his elbow shortly before Spring Training 2.0 was completed in July of 2020 and required the dreaded Tommy John elbow ligament surgery. He opened this season with the Triple-A Durham Bulls and has appeared in six games logging six scoreless innings while striking out 11 of the 21 batters he faced while walking just a pair.

Poche entered the game in the top of the 7th and retired the side in order. After the game he said he was grateful to be back and was able to keep his emotions in check. He admitted that he did get a little emotional before the game walking out to the bullpen. He restrained his emotion walking off the mound after his clean inning, not sure if he was coming out for a second inning or not.

Mazza made an opening day roster for the first time in his career this season but it’s been tough sledding to gain his footing. In two appearances he’s thrown 137 pitches but only logged 5.1-innings. He has been roughed up pitching allowing seven earned rus and yielded three homers.