Wander Franco and Collin McHugh were great, but the rest of the team wasn’t. (Photo Credit: Tampa Bay Rays)

In spite of a fantastic big league debut by Wander Franco and another great outing by Collin McHugh, the Tampa Bay Rays were done in by the top team in the AL East on Tuesday, 9-5. Instead of focusing on how abysmal the Rays were overall, having gone 3-for-17 wRISP and stranding 10 men on the bags (including two in the bottom of the 10th), let’s just focus on the two bright spots, shall we?

Tampa Bay took the initial lead in the first inning thanks to a pair of Boston mistakes. Yandy Díaz reached on a Rafael Devers error, and Franco walked after falling behind 0-2 against southpaw hurler Eduardo Rodriguez. After Austin Meadows flew out to center — he’s been doing that a lot lately, eh? — Randy Arozarena loaded the bases when he reached on an infield hit to short. Manuel Margot popped to first, however, Francisco Mejía hit a grounder into the hole at short. Under pressure, Xander Bogaerts threw wildly to second as two runs crossed the plate due to an infield hit and a throwing error.

Then, down by three in the fifth inning, Eduardo Rodriguez plunked Kevin Kiermaier on the first pitch of the at-bat before Díaz followed with an opposite-field base hit. Franco capped the Rays’ scoring after he drilled a three-run homer to left — consequently receiving a curtain call from the 13,000+ fans in attendance.

Meanwhile, McHugh was tasked with keeping Boston at bay from the fifth inning through the seventh inning, and he came up big once again, hurling three perfect frames while striking out three on 37 pitches (25 strikes, 68% strike rate). Since returning from the Injured List in May, McHugh has allowed just one run in his last 24 innings of work. He also lowered his ERA to 2.15.

Finally, in his next to last at-bat of the game, Franco roped a two-out double to left. “Launch Angle” Meadows had other ideas in mind when he popped out against Josh Taylor to end the threat. As I said before, Meadows has been doing that a lot lately.

I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge Wander’s fantastic 5-3 double play in the eighth inning when Christian Vazquez grounded to third. The infielder tagged Devers between second and third then threw to first just in time to catch Vasquez by a step.

The rest of the game was as insipid and unspectacular as the previous six though. Moving on.

The New What Next

Rich Hill (5-2, 3.62 ERA) will get the start in the second game of this three-game set, pitching opposite of Garrett Richards (4-4, 4.36 ERA).

Rich Hill got the start and allowed four runs on six hits across five-plus innings. He walked one and struck out five on 86 pitches (57 strikes, 66% strike rate). Hill cruised through the front five innings, having allowed just two runs on an RBI bloop single and a solo homer. But the wheels fell off for Hill in the sixth after Mitch Haniger singled to left, and Ty France homered, making it 5-4.

For what it’s worth, it certainly didn’t help that the left-hander got the squeeze on a couple of strikes that were called balls by home plate umpire Joe West with Haniger at the plate. Does that change much for the left-hander? Not really, although he may have approached the at-bat vs. France differently. Whatever the case, Hill maintains a 3.64 ERA and a 4.16 FIP across 71-2/3 innings with a 1.05 WHP and a 3.04 K/BB.

Garrett Richards gave up six runs (four earned) on seven hits and a walk across four innings against Atlanta on Wednesday. tossed four innings against Atlanta on Wednesday. He struck out three. Richards surrendered four earned runs for the second straight start. Wednesday’s start was his poorest since a six-run, two-inning effort in his first appearance of the season, and it marked the second time he failed to pitch at least 4-2/3 frames. Richards has been mostly consistent this season, pitching five or more innings and giving up three or fewer earned runs in nine of his 14 starts. He owns a 4.36 ERA and a 4.03 FIP on the season with a 1.61 WHIP and a 1.83 K/BB. Richards relies primarily on a 94 mph four-seam fastball with heavy sinking action and an 88 mph hard slider, while also mixing in an 80 mph curveball that has exceptional bite. The right-hander is 3-1 with a 4.22 ERA in four career starts against Tampa Bay. Key Matchups: Kevin Kiermaier (2-6, 2B), Mike Zunino (7-11, 2 2B, HR, 5 RBI)

You can read about the series in our preview, while the starting lineup is below.

Rays 6/23/21 Starting Lineup

  1. B. Lowe 2B
  2. Choi 1B
  3. Franco SS
  4. Meadows DH
  5. Arozarena LF
  6. Wendle 3B
  7. Margot RF
  8. Phillips CF
  9. Zunino C
  10. Hill LHP

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