Cruz, 41, oldest to hit 3O HRs in year, Rays bop Bosox 12-7

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Tampa Bay Rays’ Nelson Cruz tosses his bat as he watches his two-run home run during the third inning of the team’s baseball game against the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2021, at Fenway Park in Boston. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)

BOSTON (AP) — Nelson Cruz homered twice and, at 41 years old, became the oldest player in major league history to hit 30 home runs in a season, powering the Tampa Bay Rays past the Boston Red Sox 12-7 Tuesday night.

Mike Zunino also homered twice and Jordan Luplow connected for the team with the best record in the American League and the highest-scoring club in the majors.

Rays rookie Wander Franco went 0 for 4 with a walk, extending his on-base streak to 37 games and passing Mickey Mantle (1951-52) for the longest by an AL player under 21 years old. The 20-year-old Franco now trails only Frank Robinson, who reached in 43 straight in 1956.

A day after the Rays needed to rally from a six-run deficit to outlast Boston 11-10 in 10 innings, they coasted to an 11-1 lead and won their seventh straight road game.

“Scored a lot of runs and continued to get those big hits and use the Fenway wall to our advantage,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said.

Tampa Bay increased its AL East lead to 9 1/2 games over New York. The Red Sox again missed a chance to move ahead of the Yankees for the top AL wild-card spot.

“As a group (the Rays) did a good job covering the bottom part of the zone,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “Zunino the homer and Nelson did, too. So, we’ll take a look at it and see what really happened and we’ll be ready for the next one.”

Cruz hit a two-run homer in the third inning and a solo drive in the fifth, giving him 447 in his career and his eighth 30-homer season. He passed David Ortiz (38 in 2016) and Darrell Evans (34 in 1987), who were both 40 when they hit the mark.

“That’s definitely a privilege. David Ortiz means so much to baseball, also he’s Dominican,” said Cruz, who’s also from the Dominican Republic. “So, it’s an honor to be by his side.”

Cruz also doubled and singled, driving in four runs and scoring three. Acquired from Minnesota in late July, he is batting .375 with four homers in September, scoring 11 runs with 10 RBIs.

Boston’s Bobby Dalbec, who entered the game as a defensive replacement at third base in the eighth inning, hit a pair of two-run homers. Danny Santana also homered for the Red Sox.

Zunino hit a two-run triple in the second and solo homers in the third and fifth.

Drew Rasmussen (2-1) got the win, going five innings, allowing one run on six hits with no walks and two strikeouts.

Eduardo Rodriguez (11-8) lasted just 3 2/3 innings, matching season highs with six runs and two home runs allowed.

“It’s kind of hard because this is the time that we really need to step it up as a starting pitcher, go out there and win every game,” Rodriguez said. “It feels really hard to lose the game today, especially a game that I started.”

Michael Feliz relieved Rodriguez, giving up the second homers to both Zunino and Cruz.

Down 12-1, Dalbec and the Red Sox scored four times in the eighth and twice more in the ninth.

ROSTER MOVES

Rays RHP Louis Head was called up from Triple-A Durham, for the 10th time this season, and INF Taylor Walls was optioned back to Durham.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Rays: RHP Nick Anderson, out all season with a right elbow sprain, is expected to make his 13th and final rehab appearance on Wednesday, for Triple-A Durham. … 1B Ji-Man Choi, out since Aug. 23 with a left hamstring strain, could be activated within the next few days.

Red Sox: OF Kike Hernandez, on the COVID-19-related injury list since Aug. 27, was activated before the game. He led off and started in center field. … INF/OF Santana, on the COVID-19-related IL since Sunday as a precaution, was activated before the game. … RHP Nick Pivetta, who went on COVID-19-related IL on Sunday, could be available this weekend, Cora said. … SS Xander Bogaerts, on the COVID-19-related IL since Sept. 1, could be activated Friday, Cora said. … INF Christian Arroyo, on the COVID-19-related injury list since Aug. 27, is still in Cleveland, where the team was playing when he tested positive. “It got him pretty good,” Cora said. “I think, in his situation, it’s going to be longer than what we expected.” … INF Taylor Motter was designated for assignment and OF Franchy Cordero was optioned back to Triple-A Worcester.

UP NEXT

The Rays and Red Sox wrap up their three-game series and season series on Wednesday night Boston RHP Nathan Eovaldi (10-8, 3.73 ERA) is scheduled to start, opposed by LHP Shane McClanahan (9-5, 3.76). In three previous starts against the Rays this season, Eovaldi is 2-1 (3.26). McClanahan, making his first career start at Fenway Park, has faced the Red Sox twice this season, going 1-1 (4.09).

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