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With first place in the AL East on the line, baseball’s top prospect Wander Franco lived up to the stratospheric expectations, delivering an electrifying performance in his major-league debut on Tuesday evening, going 2-for-4 with a three-run homer, a double and a walk. Yet, the herculean effort simply wasn’t enough to help the Rays avoid their seventh consecutive loss, as the Red Sox’ relentless offensive onslaught in the opening and closing stages of the contest carried them to an eventual 9-5 victory in an 11-inning marathon at Tropicana Field.
There’s a lot to unpack from the series-opening extra-inning slugfest, but let’s start with Franco’s surreal performance during his highly-anticipated big-league debut. Here’s an oversimplification: Franco is a potential generational talent and a future franchise cornerstone. It’s really that simple, folks. There isn’t really anything he can’t do at an extremely-high level on a baseball diamond. The precocious 20-year-old infielder worked a six-pitch walk against lefty Eduardo Rodriguez, and eventually scored on an infield single from Francisco Mejia later in the opening frame. He flew out to center field in the third inning before golfing a mammoth 362-foot game-tying three-run homer to left field for his first big-league hit in the fifth inning. He became the youngest player to homer in his debut since Jurickson Profar accomplished the feat back in 2012. He also blistered a 105-mph double to left field with two outs in the seventh inning before grounding out against hard-throwing righty Matt Barnes in the ninth inning.
With the spotlight justifiably trained on Franco, the Red Sox’ loaded lineup erased an early two-run deficit by exploding for five runs in the third inning. Veteran middle-of-the-order masher J.D. Martinez scalded a two-run double, which just snuck under the outstretched glove of a diving attempt from Franco at the hot corner, and eventually came around to score on a sacrifice fly from Rafael Devers. A few minutes later, offseason acquisition Hunter Renfroe slugged a two-run tater to left-center field off southpaw Ryan Yarbrough to give the Red Sox an early cushion. As a result of Franco’s clutch homer in the fifth inning, Rodriguez was unable hang onto the Red Sox’ early lead, but it was one of his better performances considering that he had compiled a bloated 7.63 ERA, 1.79 WHIP and 52/16 K/BB ratio across 43 2/3 innings over his last nine starts since May 1. The 28-year-old lefty was charged with five runs (three earned) on seven hits over six solid frames. He recorded seven strikeouts, generated 15 swinging strikes and finished with a robust 34 percent CSW (called strikes plus whiffs) in this one.
As it often does when the Rays and Red Sox square off, it came down to a battle of the bullpens as the contest remained gridlocked in a 5-5 stalemate until extra-innings. A series of fantastic defensive plays in the top of the 10th inning enabled the Rays to keep the contest tied, yet, they couldn’t hold the Red Sox off for much longer as Devers walloped a two-run double, Renfroe added an RBI single and Enrique Hernandez tacked on an insurance run with a sacrifice fly in the top of the 11th inning. Despite the loss, the Wander era is off to an extremely promising start in Tampa Bay. As expected, he gave the Rays a much-needed offensive spark and figures to be a massive part of their playoff push over the final three-plus months of the regular season.
Starting Pitchers with an EDGE
Charlie Morton vs. Mets
7.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 11 K
34% CSW, 18 swinging strikes
Morton authored his most dominant performance of the 2021 campaign at Citi Field on Tuesday evening, striking out a season-high 11 batters, while limiting the Mets to just one hit (an infield chopper from opposing reliever Jerad Eickhoff) and a pair of walks over seven sublime frames. He induced an eye-popping 18 whiffs and finished with an excellent 34 percent CSW (called strikes plus whiffs). The 37-year-old veteran righty has been phenomenal over his last two starts, scattering four hits with an 18/2 K/BB ratio over 14 2/3 scoreless innings. He’ll carry a rapidly-improving 3.68 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 93/28 K/BB ratio across 80 2/3 frames (15 starts) into a road tilt against the Reds on Sunday afternoon.
Freddy Peralta vs. Diamondbacks
6.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 10 K
34% CSW, 12 swinging strikes
Peralta had some minor issues with his control, and didn’t induce a ton of whiffs, but still managed to limit the Diamondbacks to just one hit over six scoreless frames on Tuesday night. The hard-throwing 25-year-old righty recorded his second double-digit strikeout effort of the season and has allowed three earned runs or fewer in 13 of his 14 starts to open the 2021 campaign. He’ll carry a sparkling 2.11 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and 114/33 K/BB ratio across 81 innings (15 appearances, 14 starts) into a home outing against the Cubs on Monday. He’s blossomed into a reliable upper-echelon fantasy starter this season.
Anthony DeSclafani vs. Angels
7.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 9 K
33% CSW, 16 swinging strikes
DeSclafani scattered three hits and a pair of walks over seven shutout innings and matched a season-high with nine strikeouts on Tuesday evening at Angel Stadium. The 31-year-old righty has been outstanding ever since a 10-run implosion against the Dodgers back in late-May. He’s allowed two earned runs or fewer in five consecutive starts and will look to keep the momentum going in a rematch against the Dodgers on Monday.
Max Scherzer vs. Phillies
5.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 8 K
36% CSW, 19 swinging strikes
Setting aside the sticky stuff theatrics sparked by numerous foreign substance inspections, Scherzer fired five solid frames in his return to the Nationals’ rotation on Tuesday night after missing just one turn due to a groin injury. He generated a whopping 19 swinging strikes, including 12 on his four-seam fastball, and finished with a stellar 36 percent CSW in this one. The 36-year-old veteran righty has allowed two earned runs or fewer in 12 of his 14 starts to open the 2021 campaign. He’ll carry a sublime 2.19 ERA, 0.83 WHIP and 112/18 K/BB ratio across 82 1/3 frames into a road matchup against the Marlins on Sunday.
Lucas Giolito vs. Pirates
6.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 K
32% CSW, 15 swinging strikes
Giolito limited the Pirates to just a pair of runs over six frames, as a solo homer by Adam Frazier and an RBI single from Bryan Reynolds accounted for all of the damage against him, but the White Sox’ bullpen was unable to hang onto a one-run lead after his departure. The 26-year-old righty has been remarkably consistent, allowing three earned runs or fewer in eight of his last 10 starts since May 1. He’ll carry a solid 3.80 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 110/29 K/BB ratio across 87 2/3 innings (15 starts) into a home outing against the Twins on Monday.
Sandy Alcantara vs. Blue Jays
8.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K
22% CSW, 8 swinging strikes
Alcantara has completed eight innings in back-to-back starts, allowing just two runs (one earned) on 11 hits with a 10/2 K/BB ratio across 16 innings, becoming the first Marlins’ starter to accomplish the feat since the late Jose Fernandez back in 2014. It wasn’t an overpowering performance, as evidenced by a lackluster 22 percent CSW and just eight swinging strikes, but it’s still an impressive outing against a loaded Blue Jays’ lineup, which included marquee offseason acquisition George Springer in his return after an extended absence due to injury. The 25-year-old righty owns a pristine 2.93 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 90/26 K/BB ratio across a major league-leading 101 1/3 innings (16 starts) this season. He’ll square off against the division-rival Nationals at home on Sunday afternoon.
Hitters with an EDGE
Jonathan Schoop vs. Cardinals
2-for-5, R, HR (14), 3 RBI
Schoop connected on an 87 mph hanging slider from righty Johan Oviedo, launching a colossal 418-foot three-run homer -- his 14th round-tripper of the season -- in the fourth inning. The 29-year-old infielder has been on an absolute tear at the plate, hitting .366 (41-for-112) with 20 runs scored, 11 homers and 23 RBI across 28 games since May 22.
Luke Voit vs. Royals
2-for-3, R, HR (2), RBI, BB
Voit made an immediate impact in his return to the Yankees’ lineup on Tuesday evening after missing just under four weeks due to a Grade 2 oblique strain, reaching base safely in three of his four plate appearances, in addition to blasting a gargantuan 423-foot solo homer -- his second long ball of the season -- off righty Brady Singer in the opening frame. He also tripled in the seventh inning before being lifted for a pinch-runner. The 30-year-old first baseman, who led the majors with 22 big flies during the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign, has been limited to just 13 games due to injuries. If he stays healthy, he’ll make a massive impact for fantasy managers over the final three months of the regular season.
Ramon Laureano vs. Rangers
3-for-5, 3 R, HR (13), 2 RBI
Laureano served as the Athletics’ main offensive catalyst during their 13-run explosion against the Rangers on Tuesday night. He helped break the contest wide open in the early stages with a 419-foot two-run shot to center field -- his 13th round-tripper of the season -- off righty reliever Brett de Geus in the second inning. The dynamic 26-year-old outfielder hasn’t stolen a base since April 12, but he’s gone deep twice in six games since returning from the injured list last week.
Tyler Naquin vs. Twins
4-for-4, 2 R, HR (12), 3 RBI, BB
Naquin reached base safely in all five of his plate appearances, serving as the Reds’ main offensive catalyst in their 10-run outburst against the Twins on Tuesday afternoon. He capped off the season-high four-hit effort with a go-ahead three-run shot to left-center field off righty reliever Hansel Robles in the ninth inning. The 30-year-old outfielder has cooled off considerably after a scorching-hot start at the dish, but he’s shown some signs of life recently, hitting .273/.360/.455 with one homer and five RBI over his last seven games. He’s compiled a solid .261/.330/.488 triple-slash line with 25 runs scored, 13 home runs, 46 RBI and four steals over 233 plate appearances this season.
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Amir Garrett vs. Twins
1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K (4th save)
The Reds closer carousel spun again on Tuesday afternoon as Lucas Sims failed to record an out in the eighth inning, coughing up three runs on three hits, including a solo homer to Trevor Larnach. Things didn’t get any better from there as Tejay Antone came on and immediately served up a game-tying two-run double to Alex Kirilloff in his return from the injured list. Fortunately, the Reds offense responded in the ensuing frame, handing a three-run lead to Garrett, who worked around a two-out single from Nelson Cruz to spin a scoreless frame.
Richard Rodriguez vs. White Sox
1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K (9th save)
There haven’t been a ton of save chances for the Pirates this season, but Rodriguez has gotten the job done, converting nine of his 11 opportunities this season. He fired a perfect frame, protecting a three-run lead against the White Sox on Tuesday evening to pick up his third save since June 1. The 31-year-old righty owns a pristine 1.84 ERA, 0.72 WHIP and 25/3 K/BB ratio across 29 1/3 innings this season. He figures to be among the most prominent high-leverage relievers jettisoned at next month’s trade deadline.
Ryan Pressly vs. Orioles
1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K (11th save)
Pressly was summoned to guard a two-run margin against the Orioles on Tuesday night and struck out Freddy Galvis and Trey Mancini before giving up a two-out single to Ryan Mountcastle. He managed to coax a game-ending fly out from Austin Hays to extinguish the threat. The 32-year-old righty hasn’t surrendered a run in seven appearances since June 1.
Jordan Romano vs. Marlins
1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K (4th save)
Romano didn’t have much room for error, protecting a one-run lead on Tuesday night against the Marlins, but he managed to work around a leadoff single from Starling Marte -- who was thrown out attempting to swipe second base -- to secure his fourth save of the year. The 28-year-old righty has reeled off 12 consecutive scoreless appearances, and figures to receive the overwhelming majority of the save opportunities in Toronto moving forward. He should be rostered in all fantasy formats.
Greg Holland vs. Yankees
1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K (5th save)
Holland was called on to preserve a one-run lead against the Yankees on Tuesday evening and managed to escape with his fifth save of the year, despite allowing a pair of baserunners in the frame. The 35-year-old veteran stopped has picked up a pair of saves over the last week and could be an option for fantasy managers in extremely deep mixed leagues and AL-only formats.
Will Smith vs. Mets
1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K (15th save)
The Mets’ offense had nothing going on Tuesday night as Charlie Morton, A.J. Minter and Smith combined on a two-hit shutout at Citi Field. The 31-year-old lefty needed only 10 pitches (seven strikes) to slam the door, preserving a three-run cushion, netting his 15th save of the season. He’s recorded six consecutive scoreless appearances and been one of the premier stoppers in the National League this season.
Brad Hand vs. Phillies
1.1 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K (16th save)
Hand was brought on to record the final four outs of the Nationals’ narrow victory over the Phillies on Tuesday and managed to hang on, despite loading the bases with only one out in the bottom of the ninth inning. He managed to get Odubel Herrera to fly out to left field and Rhys Hoskins to ground out to short to escape the frame completely unscathed and preserve the win. The 31-year-old southpaw has given up only two earned runs over 12 appearances since June 1.
Kendall Graveman vs. Rockies
1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K (6th save)
Graveman was called upon to preserve a one-run lead in the ninth inning on Tuesday night and needed only nine pitches (eight strikes) to retire the side in order. The 30-year-old righty appears to be firmly entrenched as the Mariners' primary closer moving forward. He should be rostered in all fantasy formats.
Mark Melancon vs. Dodgers
1.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K (22nd save)
Melancon gave up a solo homer to Austin Barnes in the ninth inning on Tuesday evening, but managed to protect a two-run lead against the Dodgers to record his major league-leading 22nd save of the season. The 36-year-old veteran stopper has been one of the best closers in baseball this season.
EDGE Priority Pickup
Ryan Mountcastle, 1B, Orioles
Mountcastle endured a dreadful opening month to the 2021 campaign, but has torn the cover off the ball ever since, hitting .297 (47-for-158) with 22 runs scored, 11 home runs and 33 RBI over 41 games since May 1. The 24-year-old designated hitter has gone deep a whopping seven times since June 1. Only five hitters -- Jose Altuve, Shohei Ohtani, Kyle Schwarber, Jonathan Schoop and Salvador Perez -- have gone deep more often during that span. Simply put, he should be rostered in all fantasy formats moving forward.
Wednesday’s Matchup of the Day
It’s difficult to imagine a more enticing pitching matchup on a jam-packed Wednesday afternoon slate than this one. Ohtani has established himself as the early front-runner for the American League’s MVP Award, compiling a sparkling 2.70 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 73/29 K/BB ratio across 53 1/3 innings (10 starts). Meanwhile, Gausman has evolved into an upper-echelon stalwart on the senior circuit, posting a microscopic 1.51 ERA, 0.77 WHIP and 103/19 K/BB ratio over 89 2/3 frames (14 starts). Get your popcorn ready, folks.
American League Quick Hits: Twins placed Byron Buxton on the 10-day injured list with a boxer's fracture of his left hand. He’s expected to be sidelined for the next four to six weeks … Blue Jays activated George Springer from the 10-day injured list … Yankees activated Luke Voit from the 10-day injured list … Chris Sale (elbow) threw 45 pitches over two simulated innings on Tuesday at Double-A Portland … Blue Jays rookie right-hander Alek Manoah has been suspended five games for “intentionally throwing at” an Orioles batter last Saturday … Nelson Cruz went 3-for-5 with a run scored, and Max Kepler, Trevor Larnach and Ryan Jeffers homered in the Twins’ loss to the Reds … Lourdes Gurriel Jr. hit a go-ahead RBI double in the ninth inning, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. went 2-for-4 with an RBI single, lifting the Blue Jays past the Marlins … Matt Chapman drilled a two-run homer and Mark Canha went 3-for-5 with a pair of RBI in the Athletics’ blowout win over the Rangers … DJ LeMahieu went 2-for-4 with a two-run homer in the Yankees’ loss to the Royals … Yasmani Grandal delivered a pinch-hit, three-run homer in the White Sox’ defeat at the hands of the Pirates … Eli White went 3-for-5 with a solo homer and two RBI and Joey Gallo also blasted a solo homer in the Rangers’ loss to the Athletics … Myles Straw went 2-for-4 with a solo homer and two RBI in the Astros’ win over the Orioles … Ryan O’Hearn went 2-for-4 with a solo homer and two RBI in the Royals’ comeback victory over the Yankees … Shed Long delivered a go-ahead homer to lift the Mariners past the Rockies ... Andrew Heaney recorded 10 strikeouts but gave up five runs over six innings in a loss to the Giants … Zack Greinke yielded one run and whiffed four batters over 7 1/3 innings in a win over the Orioles … Gerrit Cole surrendered two runs and recorded six strikeouts over seven innings in a no-decision against the Royals … Chris Flexen allowed one run over 6 2/3 frames in a no-decision against the Rockies … Eli Morgan notched nine strikeouts and allowed four runs over five innings in a loss to the Cubs … Tarik Skubal allowed two runs and struck out four batters over 4 2/3 frames in a no-decision against the Cardinals … Ross Stripling struck out seven batters over six innings of one-run ball in a no-decision against the Marlins … Cole Irvin was charged with four runs (three earned) over five innings in a win over the Rangers … Ryan Yarbrough was torched for five runs over two innings in a bulk relief appearance against the Red Sox … Brady Singer walked five batters and gave up two runs over 3 2/3 frames in a no-decision against the Yankees … Jorge Lopez notched six strikeouts and allowed two runs over 6 1/3 frames in a loss to the Astros … Bailey Ober was rocked for four runs over 4 1/3 innings in a no-decision against the Reds … Garrett Crochet failed to record an out and was obliterated for four runs on four hits in a relief appearance against the Pirates … Justin Upton left Tuesday night's game against the Giants with lower back tightness … Danny Duffy (forearm) will be activated from the injured list to start Wednesday against the Yankees … Michael Kopech (hamstring) threw another bullpen session on Tuesday … Tigers released Wilson Ramos.
National League Quick Hits: Marcus Stroman exited Thursday’s start against the Braves early due to left hip soreness … Tylor Megill will be called up to make his major-league debut for the Mets on Wednesday versus the Braves … Mookie Betts exited Tuesday's game against the Padres early due to illness ... Ketel Marte was removed from Tuesday night's game against the Brewers due to left hamstring tightness … Daniel Vogelbach was removed from Tuesday night's game against the Diamondbacks with an apparent leg injury … Nationals activated Max Scherzer from the 10-day injured list … Dodgers activated Max Muncy from the 10-day injured list … Braves placed Max Fried on the 10-day injured list with a blister on his left index finger … Michael Conforto (hamstring) is expected to be activated from the 10-day injured list on Wednesday … Eduardo Escobar (quad) remained out of the Diamondbacks’ lineup on Tuesday night … Rockies activated Chris Owings from the 60-day injured list … Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras and Patrick Wisdom launched solo homers in the Cubs’ win over the Indians … Juan Soto went 2-for-5 with a stolen base in the Nationals’ win over the Phillies … Jesus Sanchez clobbered a 439-foot solo homer in the Marlins’ loss to the Blue Jays … Dansby Swanson crushed a three-run homer -- his 12th long ball of the season -- and Ozzie Albies went 2-for-4 with a pair of stolen bases in the Braves’ shutout victory over the Mets … Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins swatted solo homers in the Phillies’ loss to the Nationals … Wilmer Flores and Mauricio Dubon went deep in the Giants’ victory over the Angels … Jake Cronenworth drilled a two-run homer in the Padres' win over the Dodgers ... C.J. Cron slugged a solo homer in the Rockies' loss to the Mariners ... Adam Frazier drilled a solo homer in the Pirates’ win over the White Sox … Tommy Edman went 2-for-5 in the Cardinals’ loss to the Tigers … Zac Gallen registered eight strikeouts and yielded one run over five innings in a loss to the Brewers … Kyle Hendricks recorded five strikeouts over six scoreless innings in a win over the Indians … Blake Snell tossed five scoreless innings in a win over the Dodgers ... Zack Wheeler allowed three runs over three innings in a loss to the Nationals … Wade Miley notched six strikeouts and yielded two runs over seven innings in a no-decision against the Twins … Clayton Kershaw posted seven strikeouts over six innings in a loss to the Padres ... Kyle Freeland recorded a season-high seven strikeouts over six innings of one-run ball in a no-decision against the Mariners … Tyler Anderson allowed three runs over 6 2/3 innings in a no-decision against the White Sox … Johan Oviedo was charged with six runs (two earned) over 3 2/3 innings in a loss to the Tigers … Reds activated Tejay Antone from the 10-day injured list … Joey Votto served a one-game suspension on Tuesday evening … Sonny Gray (shoulder) will make a minor-league rehab start Thursday with Triple-A Louisville … Logan Webb (shoulder) worked a successful bullpen session on Monday … Brewers placed Brett Anderson on the 10-day injured list with a right knee contusion … Joey Lucchesi is scheduled to undergo Tommy John surgery on Thursday … Brewers designated Derek Fisher for assignment … Reds signed Mallex Smith to a minor-league contract … Dylan Cozens announced his retirement from baseball.