BOSTON -- Even on a hitless night at Fenway Park, Rays shortstop Wander Franco managed to make history.
By drawing a walk in the seventh inning of the Rays’ 12-7 win over the Red Sox on Tuesday night, Franco extended his on-base streak to 37 games. It gave the 20-year-old switch-hitter the longest on-base streak in American League history by a player 20 years old or younger, breaking his tie with Mickey Mantle.
“I'm guessing Wander knows or has heard of Mickey Mantle. We all certainly have,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “And when you're in the same sentence with him, you're doing some really special things.”
Franco was 0-for-3 entering the seventh inning of Tuesday’s game, and finished 0-for-4, but he worked a walk against Red Sox right-hander Brad Peacock to surpass the 36-game on-base streak Mantle put together from Sept. 5, 1951-May 4, 1952.
After drawing a walk late in Wednesday's game, Franco pushed his streak to 39 on Friday with a first-inning single against the Tigers, but he left moments later with an apparent injury.
Among players younger than 21, there has only been one on-base streak in AL/NL history longer than Franco’s current run: A 43-game streak by Hall of Famer Frank Robinson from May 26-July 7, 1956.
Franco has put together the longest active on-base streak in the Majors, and it’s now passed DJ LeMahieu for the longest such streak in the Majors this season. Franco also moved past Ben Grieve (April 18-May 30, 2001) for sole possession of the third-longest streak in Tampa Bay franchise history, and he's tied with Johnny Damon (2011) for the longest on-base streak by a Rays player in a single season.
“Incredible,” Rays catcher Mike Zunino said. “I'm sitting there [as a 20-year-old] in the sophomore year of college, you're trying to figure yourself out as a person, as a player. You don't know what the future holds. And this guy's breaking records as a Major League Baseball player. It’s awesome to be a part of. It's fun to see the energy he brings. Sometimes you need that. That youthful energy is really, really contagious for us.”
After grounding out in the first inning on Tuesday and lining out in the third against Eduardo Rodriguez, and grounding out in the fifth against Michael Feliz, Franco worked the count full against Peacock then took a changeup below the strike zone. Franco nodded, tossed his bat toward the Rays’ dugout and made his way to first base.
Franco moved to third base on a double by Nelson Cruz, the 41-year-old slugger who has reminded reporters he was playing in Rookie-level ball when he was Franco’s age, then he scored on Jordan Luplow’s homer to left. He flied out to center in the ninth, completing only his fourth hitless game in 25 starts since Aug. 10.
Franco seems to make history every time he takes the field. On Monday, for instance, he became the youngest player (at 20 years, 189 days) with a four-hit game at Fenway Park since Tony Conigliaro (20 years, 101 days) on April 18, 1965.