Cruz on first? Rays slip past Phillies

by Gary Shelton on August 25, 2021

in general

Kittredge almost had an 'immaculate inning./JEFFREY S. KING

Wednesday, 4 a.m.

Who knows, but the new kid at first base just might have a future.

He's got good hands. He has enough of a bat. And considering that he's 41 years old, he moves pretty well.

Yeah, that Nelson Cruz just might hang around some.

Cruz, the Rays' ageless slugger, has played 1,852 major league games, but until Tuesday night, he had never played one at first base. But with an interleague game against the Philadelphia Phillis, the Rays played him at first. He ended up with three hits, including the game-winner, to lead Tampa Bay to a 3-1 victory.

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"It was just a fun day, you know?" Cruz said. "I was really pumped to not only help with the bat. Playing defense is a huge part of winning. Being involved in two plays really put a smile on my face. I was looking forward to the mound visits. 'What do they talk about?' When (Kyle) Snyder goes out there, it's like 'what's the deal? What are you guys talking about?'"

Cruz hadn't exactly lit it up since being obtained in a trade with Minnesota. Yes, he has seven home runs, but he had only nine singles and was hitting just .198. But he had two singles and a double, including a two-run single in the eighth.

The other Rays' hitting star was Wander Franco, at 20 less than half the age of Cruz. Franco now has an eight-game hitting streak and has reached base 25 straight games. In the history of baseball, only Mickey Mantle and Al Kaline have longer streaks at age 20 or younger, although both of them did it twice.

The Rays' got another solid start from Drew Rasmussen, who this time went five innings and allowed only one run. Rasmussen seems to have slotted into a starter's role nicely.

"Five innings, one run," said Rays' manager Kevin Cash. "Anyone’s going to sign up for that. Just another good outing. This team can hit. They’ve got guys who have plenty of thump."

The Rays used three relievers to shut out the Phillies over the last four innings. Andrew Kittredge got the save by pitching the eighth and ninth. In the eighth, he threw 10 pitches, all strikes, and struck out three batters.

"He was one pitch away from an immaculate inning," Cash said.

The Rays play Philadelphia again today at 7:05 p.m. at Citizens' Bank Park. Ryan Yarbrough will pitch for Tampa Bay against Zack Wheeler.

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