Franco shines, but Rays continue their slide

by Gary Shelton on June 23, 2021

in general

Fairbanks couldn't close the door again./ CHUCK MULLER

Wednesday, 4 a.m.

The kid was bigger than the hype, more magical than the expectations, more powerful than the adjectives.

Still, Wander Franco wasn't enough.

So maybe the Tampa Bay Rays need to call up another player or two. Maybe three of four.

Despite the smashing debut of Franco, the No. 1 prospect in baseball's minor leagues, the Rays took it on the nose again Tuesday night. With a chance to recapture first place in the American League East, the Rays lost a 9-5 game to the Boston Red Sox in 11 innings.

Content beyond this point is for members only.

Already a member? To view the rest of this column, sign in using the handy "Sign In" button located in the upper right corner of the blog (it's at the far right of the navigation bar under Gary's photo)!

Not a member? It's easy to subscribe so you can view the rest of this column and all other premium content on

And the beating goes on.

The Rays have now lost seven straight games. Five of those have come in the opponent's final at-bat. Four of them have come in extra innings. And in those four losses, the Rays have batted in five half-innings. Despite the designated runner, they have yet to score.

The Rays are 3-9 in extra-inning games. They've allowed a major-league worst 30 runs, and they've been held scoreless in 11 o their 20 half-innings to the plate.

These days, the Rays are a toothache that will not quit. The are struggling on the mound (Ryan Yarbrough gave up five earned runs in two innings; Pete Fairbanks gave up four in two innings). They weren't great fielding (a ball went through Yandy Diaz' legs for two runs). They were lost on the bases (Brett Phillips was a force out on a grounder to third in the 10th while he was running back to second). And they couldn't hit (two for 17 with runners in scoring position).

In the seven-game losing streak, they are hitting .145 with runners in scoring position. More and more, this looks like a season that took a wrong turn in Chicago.

“Everything kind of unraveled," Rays' manager Kevin Cash said. "Personally, I’m surprised we were even in the ballgame at that point. We put ourselves behind. That inning exposed us.  We didn’t make pitches, we didn’t make the plays behind (Franklin), With a team that’s playing well like the Red Sox, they took advantage and scored four runs.

“We’ve gone a little while with guys in scoring position, not getting that big hit in extra-inning games. We’ve talked about it over and over, We’d like to find a way to somehow manufacture something, put a little more pressure on the opposition. We’re not doing it right now.  We’re capable if it, but it does become frustrating day to day." 

The Rays have now gone from a three-game lead in the AL East to trailing the Red Sox by 1 1/2 games.

For the Rays, there wasn't much reason to get excited except for Franco, a kid younger than the Rays, a kid who was born less than a year before Tom Brady won his first Super Bowl, a kid who was born after Y2K.

“Pretty electric player," Cash said. "I wish somehow we could have gotten a win because it would have been in large part becauseof his contributions. Win or lose, it’s got to be a special day for Wander. I'm excited for him. He checked a lot of boxes tonight."

Fairbanks has taken the loss in three of his last four appearances.

The Rays and Red Sox play again tonight (7:10 p.m.) at Tropinana Field. Rich Hill will start for Tampa Bay against Garrett Richards.

Previous post:

Next post: