Franco 2 shy of tying record on-base streak

Rookie phenom doubles and triples, showing he's over hammy injury that landed him on IL

September 26th, 2021

ST. PETERSBURG -- If there were any lingering doubts about how rookie shortstop ’s previously injured right hamstring was holding up, he erased them in a big way Sunday afternoon at Tropicana Field.

Back in the lineup after sitting out the Rays’ American League East-clinching 7-3 victory over the Marlins on Saturday night, Franco wasted no time extending his historic on-base streak and flying around the bases in Tampa Bay’s 3-2 win against Miami on Sunday.

“Thank God it feels really good,” Franco said through interpreter Manny Navarro. “We've got to stay ready for the fight for the rest of the year.”

Franco ripped a double high off the left-field wall in the first inning against Miami lefty Jesús Luzardo, running his on-base streak to 41 games. The 20-year-old switch-hitter owns the longest active on-base streak in the Majors, the longest by a rookie in club history and the longest in the modern era by a rookie shortstop, regardless of age.

Franco is two games shy of tying Frank Robinson for the longest on-base streak in AL/NL history by a player younger than 21 years old. He already passed Mickey Mantle (36) for the longest streak in American League history by a player 20 years old or younger. Robinson’s record streak ran for 43 games from May 26-July 7, 1956.

Franco’s on-base streak is also the longest in the Majors since the Astros’ Alex Bregman put together a 41-gamer from Sept. 11, 2019-Sept. 8, 2020.

“I don't always think about it,” Franco said. “Sometimes I do, but sometimes I just try to go out there and do my job, and hopefully I don't have to think about it too much.”

A stint on the 10-day injured list from Sept. 11 to Friday due to right hamstring tightness didn’t stop Franco’s streak. Neither did Saturday’s day off. In the fifth inning Sunday, he smashed a ball 104.6 mph to the gap in left-center field, then sprinted around the bases for his fifth triple of the season. Franco said that was “100 percent” effort, and his hamstring felt fine afterward.

“He definitely turned it loose,” manager Kevin Cash said. “We want to see Wander make sure he's 100 percent healthy. I agree he totally looks healthy, getting down the line on the ground ball to third and then really turning it on [for the triple].

“You're kind of cringing there as he's coming up on second base, but he feels good. It's nice to be young.”

The only longer on-base streak in Rays history belongs to Tommy Pham, who reached safely in 48 straight games from 2018-19. That means Franco is already in possession of the longest single-season on-base streak in club history.

Since his streak began, Franco has recorded more hits (52) than swinging strikes (46) and more walks (16) than strikeouts (15). The former top overall prospect has struck out only twice in his last 69 plate appearances and four times in his last 110.

“He looks like he's got a good feel for what he wants to do up there,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “He got a lot of attention, I know, and that kind of gives you that curiosity to what he's going to look like during the game.

“Pretty steady, a lot like their club. Does a little bit of everything -- runs good, gets on base, looked like a good defender. Pretty solid. Good-looking player.”