July 5, 2022

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Another Wander first: a multihomer game

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ST. PETERSBURG — There is a running joke in the Rays’ dugout whenever Wander Franco does something special, hitting coach Chad Mottola said earlier this week. When Franco knocks his third hit of the night or crushes another ball with elite exit velocity, someone will turn to his teammates and ask, “Why can’t you guys do this?”

If hitting was as easy as Franco often makes it look, everyone would do it.

Franco checked another Major League “first” off his list on Friday night at Tropicana Field, smashing two solo home runs off Red Sox right-hander Michael Wacha for his first multihomer game in the big leagues. The performance also made Franco the youngest player in franchise history with a multihomer game, at 21 years and 52 days old.

Franco’s first shot came with one out in the first inning, when he jumped on a high first-pitch fastball from Wacha and slammed it on a line into the right-field seats. The ball boomed off his bat at 109.7 mph, according to Statcast, tied for his hardest-hit ball in the Majors.

Two plate appearances later, Franco broke his own personal record.

With two outs in the fifth inning, Franco took a first-pitch changeup from Wacha for a strike. He unloaded on the next offering, a high-and-inside cutter at 90.4 mph, and got every bit of it. Franco hammered the ball at 112.4 mph, the highest exit velocity of his big league career, and kept it inside the right-field foul pole.

For all he accomplished as a prospect, Franco only had a pair of two-homer games in the Minors: July 14, 2018, for Rookie-level Princeton; and April 25, 2019, for then-Class A Bowling Green.

Demonstrating his all-around ability, Franco followed his second home run with a gem in the field. Lined up at shortstop with Red Sox catcher Christian Vázquez at the plate, Franco hustled back and to his right, sprinting full speed to snag a popup near the left-field line for the second out of the inning.

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