New Tampa Bay outfielder Hunter Renfroe knew he just needed to get a few at-bats under his belt to make an impression on the Rays.
He accomplished that Monday night.
Renfroe’s two-homer, four-RBI night sparked the club’s biggest offensive output of the brief season so far, and it pushed its winning streak to three games after losing to Toronto on Opening Day.
The Mississippi native spent his first four seasons on the West Coast playing for the San Diego Padres. Renfroe, 28, had productive years, notching 89 home runs in the four campaigns, including a career-high 33 last year.
The Rays acquired him from the Padres in a trade that sent Tommy Pham to the National League West team.
Renfroe felt he needed a few good cuts to get going with his new club.
“Honestly, just getting the first hit out of the way was a big thing,” said Renfroe, who had the coaching staff retrieve the ball from his first hit with his new team, a ground-ball single to right field to start his 3-for-5 night.
“I’m finally getting some ABs under my belt, and it’s going good.”
It was an odd night all around at Tropicana Field in the first game between the two teams, who meet up again Tuesday night in St. Petersburg, Fla., before going to Atlanta for games Wednesday and Thursday.
The Braves lost at least two catchable flies against the domed stadium’s whitish roof, and the visitors struck out 19 times, which allowed Tampa Bay to set a team record for the most strikeouts in a nine-inning game. The futility at the plate left Atlanta hitters with 52 Ks in four games.
The clubs also combined to whiff 31 times — another Rays record and just four Ks shy from tying the big league record for a nine-inning game.
Following the game, losing pitcher Mike Foltynewicz was told he had been designated for assignment by Atlanta. The 2018 National League All-Star’s velocity has been noticeably slower from last year.
“His stuff hasn’t been there,” said fifth-year manager Brian Snitker after he told Foltynewicz he had been DFAd.
The team said pitcher Chad Sobotka will arrive tomorrow and be available.
The Rays also moved to 15-6 in their last 21 games against National League competition.
Tampa Bay will complete its first run through its entire rotation by starting Yonny Chirinos, who was sidelined with COVID-19 during summer camp. The right-hander was 9-5 with a 3.85 ERA in 26 appearances (18 starts) last season.
He is 0-0 with a 3.60 ERA in one career relief appearance against Atlanta.
With left-hander Cole Hamels sidelined, Atlanta will round out its rotation by starting highly regarded prospect Kyle Wright.
The Huntsville, Ala., native joined the Opening Day roster in 2019 and made seven appearances (four starts) but found control issues on the way to an 0-3 record and an 8.69 ERA.
A 2017 first-round pick (fifth overall) out of Vanderbilt by Atlanta, Wright has never faced Tampa Bay in his 11 big league appearances.
Hamels, 36, signed a one-year, $18 million contract with the Braves in the offseason, but triceps tendinitis prevented him from throwing a side session on July 11, and the veteran was placed on the 45-day injured list on Thursday.
–Field Level Media