Franco's on-base streak ties Mantle

September 7th, 2021

BOSTON -- swung at the first pitch he saw from Chris Sale on Monday afternoon, launched it off the center-field fence, hustled to third base and ran into some legendary company when he arrived.

The 20-year-old shortstop’s one-out triple in the first inning at Fenway Park extended his historic on-base streak to 36 games. It's the longest active on-base streak in the Majors, and it ties him with Mickey Mantle for the longest such streak in American League history by a player 20 years old or younger.

“That was a great game, and it's pretty good to be [on] the same list as names like Mickey Mantle,” Franco said through interpreter Manny Navarro. “He's a superstar, and I'm glad I was able to achieve this.”

Franco found his way back on base in each of his next three at-bats, recording his first four-hit game in the Majors before the seventh inning of the Rays’ wild 11-10 win over the Red Sox. He pulled a slider to left field for a single off Sale in the third inning and hit a single to right off Sale in the fourth, then he slapped a single up the middle off right-hander Garrett Richards in the sixth.

“Continue to say it, feels good to say it: He's really talented, really special,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “Just helps us so many ways.”

Mantle reached base in 36 straight games for the Yankees from Sept. 5, 1951, to May 4, 1952. Fellow Hall of Famer Frank Robinson owns the only longer on-base streak by a player under 21, having reached safely in 43 straight games for Cincinnati from May 26 to July 7 in 1956.

Regardless of age, Franco’s streak is the longest by a rookie shortstop since Hanley Ramirez reached in 36 straight games for the Marlins in 2006. It is also the longest on-base streak by a rookie in Rays history and the longest single-season streak by a Tampa Bay player since Johnny Damon reached in 39 consecutive games from May 3-June 14, 2011.

“When I was 20, I was playing in the Dominican Summer League. So imagine how [far ahead] he is,” said 41-year-old Rays DH Nelson Cruz. “He's a special player. He has so much talent. Hopefully God gives him the help that he needs to keep playing for many years.”

The streak is the third-longest single-season on-base stretch in Rays history, behind Damon's in 2011 and Ben Grieve's (37) from April 18-May 30, 2001, and the fourth-longest overall behind Damon, Grieve and Tommy Pham’s 48-gamer across 2018-19.

“It's a tremendous job what he's doing,” outfielder Manuel Margot said through Navarro before Monday’s game. “He's still a kid, and he's doing such great things. Just hope for the best for him, and hopefully [he] continues to do it.”

After blasting a high first-pitch fastball from Sale to center and hustling around the bases for his fourth triple in the Majors, Franco scored on a single to center by Cruz. It was Franco’s AL-leading 38th run since the All-Star break, and he went on to score two more Monday afternoon.

Although Monday was his first four-hit game, Franco has recorded multiple hits in 20 of his first 59 games. His second-half surge has boosted his overall slash line to .290/.349/.475 with 26 extra-base hits, 36 RBIs and 48 runs scored since his June 22 debut against the Red Sox at Tropicana Field. Franco has struck out only three times in his last 91 plate appearances, and he hasn't gone a full game without reaching safely since taking an 0-for-5 against Cleveland on July 24 at Progressive Field.

“Thank God, I feel very comfortable now in the box,” Franco said.

Franco has played up to the competition when facing the AL East-rival Red Sox, too, going 19-for-54 with nine extra-base hits, 16 RBIs and 14 runs scored in his 14 games against Boston. Red Sox manager Alex Cora saw all he needed to see from Franco in his first big league plate appearance, when the 20-year-old worked a walk against left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez.

“This kid, he controls the strike zone. He did it throughout his Minor League career. Not too many strikeouts, a lot of walks, and he hasn’t panicked in that sense,” Cora said Monday morning. “He’s still swinging at strikes, his swing decisions are sound, and obviously the talent is there. … They have a good one.

“Hopefully we can stop the streak here and he can struggle for three days and then move on, but he’s a special talent.”