February 3, 2023

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'It's frustrating': Rasmussen uneven against Rangers

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Franco exits late as Rays drop road series opener
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ARLINGTON — Drew Rasmussen was coming in hot for his first career start against the Rangers.

The right-hander was on a five-game winning streak and the Rays had won eight of their past nine games with him starting this season. Rasmussen set and matched some career-highs in Monday night’s 9-5 loss to the Rangers at Globe Life Field, but not in a good way.

Rasmussen posted a final line of 3 IP, 5 H, 5 ER, 3 BB and 3 K’s. He allowed two home runs in a single game for the first time since his rookie season in 2020; the first was a two-run blast by Eli White off of his newly-added cutter, and the second was a solo homer from Jonah Heim on a four-seam fastball.

Both Rasmussen and Rays manager Kevin Cash agreed that it was an uncharacteristic start for the 26-year-old.

“They took good pitches with two strikes, fouled off good pitches with two strikes, hit every mistake I made — I made more than normal today,” Rasmussen explained. “It’s frustrating, really, so these days kind of suck. I don’t think I’ve ever been scrambled around [like] that before.”

The five runs surrendered by Rasmussen were a career high. Before Monday, he hadn’t allowed more than three runs all season, nor had he allowed a run in the first inning of a game.

Rasmussen opened the game with three consecutive walks, then gave up a bases-loaded two-run single to Rangers outfielder Kole Calhoun. He managed to retire the rest of the lineup in order without giving up another run, but that first inning — both offensively and defensively — had already set the tone of the game for the Rays.

“I didn’t go out and help reset that tone by any means,” Rasmussen said. “The starting pitcher’s job is to set the tone for the entire team for the entire day, and I didn’t do that.”

In the top of the first inning, Rangers outfielder Eli White made a leaping grab at the center field wall to rob Ji-Man Choi of a would-be 405-foot, three-run home run.

“That was a heck of a play,” Cash remarked. “If there was any sign that the night wasn’t going to go our way, maybe that should have been it. Ji-Man got a lot of that baseball. I thought it was a homer off the bat.”

Choi said through interpreter Daniel Park that he thought it was a good hit for himself, but an even better catch by White. He later added to the consensus that, “The homer could have set the tone for the team, but it just didn’t happen, so I’m a little upset about that.”

After two scoreless innings from Matt Wisler in relief, the Rangers dug an even deeper hole, scoring four runs off Ryan Thompson in the sixth inning.

Trailing 9-2, the Rays plated three runs in the seventh inning with the help of a pair of back-to-back singles from Kevin Kiermaier and Wander Franco.

Franco, who registered just two hits in 13 at-bats against the Yankees over the weekend, seemed to have found his footing Monday before the night took a turn.

Franco was 3-for-4 at the plate with two RBIs and a walk, and after matching a season-high three hits with a single in the ninth inning, he exited the game with a right quad issue. Cash said Franco will be evaluated Tuesday before any decisions will be made on his status in the lineup.

Franco has dealt with several quad and hamstring issues throughout the season, but he’s capitalized on off-days to avoid the injured list.

“It kind of scares me a little bit to go on the IL,” Franco said. “I think that’s maybe why I haven’t been playing as well as I have been because I’m scared to go on the IL.”

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