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Osleivis Basabe hits grand slam as Rays rally late to beat Rockies

Called up to spell All-Star Wander Franco, the rookie shortstop’s first career big-league home run highlights a nine-run eighth inning.
 
Rays shortstop Osleivis Basabe celebrates after hitting a grand slam in the eighth inning of Tuesday's game against the Colorado Rockies at Tropicana Field.
Rays shortstop Osleivis Basabe celebrates after hitting a grand slam in the eighth inning of Tuesday's game against the Colorado Rockies at Tropicana Field. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published Aug. 23, 2023|Updated Aug. 23, 2023

ST. PETERSBURG — Osleivis Basabe was thrown into a tough spot. The 22-year-old rookie was called up from Triple-A Durham nine days ago with the explanation he would give All-Star shortstop Wander Franco a day of rest.

Since then, however, Franco has been placed on administrative leave indefinitely by Major League Baseball as multiple investigations continue into allegations of inappropriate relationships with one or more minors.

Basabe has had to step in and fill big shoes on the field as the Rays continue to chase a playoff spot.

Tuesday night, Basabe stepped up big. His first career home run, a grand slam, highlighted a nine-run eighth inning as the Rays rallied to beat the Rockies 12-4 in front of 10,235 at Tropicana Field.

“I am very happy for the opportunity that the Rays gave me to be here,” Basabe said through team interpreter Manny Navarro. “Whether I’m here today, tomorrow, whether they send me down here shortly. Whatever it is. I’m just here to just play the role with the team.

“I’m having as much fun as I can, and hopefully I can still stay up here as long as I can.”

Basabe’s big hit gave the Rays their second straight win, fourth in their past five games and 13th in their last 20. It was theit 25th come-from-behind win of the season. More importantly, it came on a night the Blue Jays beat the Orioles, cutting Baltimore’s lead over Tampa Bay to two games in the American League East.

The Rockies (48-77) dropped to a National League worst 20-44 on the road this season.

Rays shortstop Osleivis Basabe watches his eighth-inning grand slam leave the playing field.
Rays shortstop Osleivis Basabe watches his eighth-inning grand slam leave the playing field. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

Basabe’s grand slam came in his second at-bat of the eighth inning and blew the game open after the Rays had clawed their way back from a 4-3 deficit. Jose Siri and Basabe led off the inning with singles, and Curtis Mead drew a walk. Christian Bethancourt then hit a pinch-hit single to tie the game before Yandy Diaz’s third hit of the night gave the Rays the lead.

They didn’t stop there.

Randy Arozarena singled in two runs, and Isaac Paredes, who went 3-for-5, doubled in another to set up Basabe’s big moment.

“He’s had a lot of good at-bats here. He really has. He’s very competitive up there,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “He can hit it to all fields. The power is something maybe we haven’t seen quite yet, but he showed it off (Tuesday). Certainly shows that he can hit balls in the gaps and doubles down the line, and now he got a breaking ball that he drove just out of the ballpark.”

Basabe became just the third player in club history to hit a grand slam for his first career home run. He joins Wil Myers (June 22, 2013, at the Yankees) and Jorge Velandia (Sept. 25, 2007, at the Yankees). Basabe is the third rookie in the big leagues to do it this season. He is the seventh Ray to hit a grand slam in his rookie season and first since Arozarena in 2021 against the Orioles. Basabe also is the first Rays rookie since Arozarena to have a-four-or-more-RBI game.

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“I’m very happy that it came out that way,” Basabe said. “I didn’t expect it to be so soon since I’m not really much of a home run hitter, but thank God it happened as early as it did and the way it did.”

Rays first baseman Yandy Diaz (2) reacts after hitting a double against the Colorado Rockies in the first inning.
Rays first baseman Yandy Diaz (2) reacts after hitting a double against the Colorado Rockies in the first inning. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

In eight games since his Aug. 13 call-up, Basabe is hitting .303 with three doubles, a home run and eight RBIs. The day he was called up, posts went viral on social media alleging that Franco had been involved in an inappropriate relationship with a minor. Franco did not travel to the West Coast for the Rays’ six-game trip and later was placed on the team’s restricted list. Tuesday, he was placed on administrative leave.

The Rays have tried to keep their focus on the field, and Basabe certainly has helped.

“Thank God he was able to come up, and he’s demonstrating to everyone what he’s capable of doing,” Diaz said through Navarro. “And that’s exactly what he’s doing up here.”

Diaz, who finished 3-for-5, had his career-high fifth straight multihit game and 43rd of the season. He has reached base in 19 of his last 20 games (since July 30) and is hitting .386 with seven doubles, two homers and 23 RBIs in his last 14. His 15 games with three-plus hits lead the American League.

“He’s got a knack for putting the ball in play, finding holes,” Cash said. “He’s such a good hitter, even if he gets behind in the count there’s just so much confidence while he’s at the plate with himself and so much confidence that we have in him. There’s that the trust that he’s gonna be able to get it done. He did again.”

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