ST. PETERSBURG, Fla — Could the Rays' farm system be the gift that keeps on giving this season?
The team's top prospect made his major league debut on Monday against the Toronto Blue Jays and came away with a win. Right-handed pitcher Shane Baz moved up the rankings following the debut of young phenom Wander Franco in June.
Franco has been as advertised during his 62-games in the majors — in some cases even better — and now it's Baz's turn.
Baz pitched two-hit ball for five innings to win his major league debut. The AL East-leading Tampa Bay Rays cut Toronto’s lead in the wild-card chase, holding off the Blue Jays 6-4.
Baz gave up a pair of home runs and little else, striking out five and walking none.
The 2017 1st round pick was originally drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was traded to Tampa Bay's minor league system in the same deal that brought Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows to the Rays in exchange for Chris Archer.
Since that trade, Baz has been tearing it up in double and triple-A, posting a 2.06 ERA this year between Durham and Montgomery. But, possibly the most notable accomplishment of Baz's this season is helping team USA win a silver medal in the Tokyo Olympics.
The Olympic medalist now starts for a red hot Rays team that is just six wins away from clinching the AL East division. While it's not likely Baz will join the team in the playoffs, his start on Monday will bring relief to a Tampa Bay rotation that has been hampered by injuries.
Baz has his work cut out for him, facing an explosive Toronto offense led by AL MVP candidate Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Tampa Bay's bats will also have to deal with another tough matchup as Blue Jays ace Robbie Ray takes the bump against the team.
Tampa Bay has a seven-game advantage over second-place Boston with 11 games remaining. The Blue Jays, who scored twice in the ninth inning and left the bases loaded, had their edge over the New York Yankees for the second AL wild card drop to a half-game.