Wander Franco, Major League Baseball's No. 1 prospect, made his anticipated big-league debut for the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday night as they faced off against the Boston Red Sox in the first game of a pivotal three-game set. The Rays, who entered the night having lost six consecutive games, ended up on the wrong side of the ledger once more, dropping an 11-inning affair by a 9-5 final. The Rays now trail the Red Sox in the division by 1 1/2 games.
Tampa Bay's loss was none of Franco's fault. He walked in his first plate appearance, rallying from an 0-2 count by taking four consecutive pitches. He then flew out to center in his second. His third trip to the plate, however, will go down as the one everybody remembers. That's because Franco delivered a three-run shot to tie the contest at 5-5. Take a look:
The ball left Franco's bat at 95.5 mph and carried some 362 feet, according to Statcast's measurements.
Franco later doubled and made a nifty defensive play to turn two:
Per MLB.com's Jason Catania, Franco became the youngest player in the modern era to have multiple extra-base hits, including a home run, and multiple runs scored in their MLB debut.
Franco will continue to be asked to carry a heavy load out of the gate. On Tuesday, he was slotted in at third base and the No. 2 spot in Tampa Bay's order. Rays manager Kevin Cash offered the following explanation for batting the rookie so high in the order in his first game. "We're all about keeping guys comfortable," he told reporters, including Neil Solondz, "and he's never hit past third as far as I know so we're going to keep him up there."
Franco, a switch-hitter, batted .315/.367/.586 with seven home runs, six triples, and five stolen bases (albeit on nine tries) over 39 games in Triple-A. Notably, his strikeout percentage was just 11.8 percent -- that despite being nearly seven years younger than his average competition. Franco is used to performing well against older players, though, as evidenced by his career slash line of .332/.398/.536.
For those curious about Franco's jersey number, he's sticking with the No. 5. Why? To honor his fellow Dominican Republic countryman Albert Pujols. Here's what Franco told MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez about the tribute:
"I wear No. 5. The only Dominican player that's really had a lot of success wearing that number is Albert Pujols. That's why I wear it. It's out of respect and tribute to Albert Pujols. He's put up so many numbers, and he's just a legend in the Dominican Republic."
We have more on what to expect from Franco here.