- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 17, 2015

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) - Rays manager Kevin Cash had a simple request of infielder Nick Franklin.

“Cash asked me if I could throw strikes, and I told him I probably could,” Franklin said

Franklin and fellow utility player Jake Elmore gave up late homers to Wilson Ramos, and Bryce Harper also connected for the Washington Nationals in a 16-4 victory over Tampa Bay on Tuesday night, ending the Rays’ four-game winning streak.

With the game out of reach, Jake Elmore and Nick Franklin pitched the final two innings, each allowing three hits. Ramos hit a solo shot against Elmore in the eighth and added a two-run drive off Franklin in the ninth to finish with four RBIs.

“They did pick us up quite a bit because it kept two (other) guys from pitching. It kept us that much fresher going into the game tomorrow,” Cash said.

Asked whether Elmore or Franklin looked more effective, Cash replied: “I didn’t notice. You’d have to ask Wilson Ramos.”

Not that it mattered.

“We were just trying to save the bullpen’s arms and my main purpose was just to throw strikes,” said Franklin, who pitched in high school.

Harper hit his 22nd homer and finished a triple shy of the cycle. His long solo shot to center off C.J. Riefenhauser during a four-run fifth gave Washington a 10-0 lead. The ball landed on protective netting near a fish tank that is home to a group of cownose rays.

Twenty-three hits off six different pitchers set a Nationals record.

“I feel like we looked like an American League team tonight,” said Harper. “We had a lot of fun as a team.”

Robinson had a leadoff homer among his four hits and added an RBI double off Alex Colome during a six-run second inning that put the Nationals up 6-0.

Danny Espinosa had a career-high five hits and was hit by a pitch from Franklin, but he was the only Washington starter not to have an RBI.

Tanner Roark (3-2) allowed one run and six hits over seven innings.

Colome (3-3) gave up six runs, seven hits and three walks over two innings as Tampa Bay lost for just the fifth time in 17 games.

Rivera hit a three-run homer in the ninth for the Rays.

The Rays optioned Riefenhauser to Triple-A Durham after the game and selected right-hander Ronald Belisario

TRAINER’S ROOM

Nationals: Manager Matt Williams said “we’re looking at Thursday, barring some kind of issue” for RHP Doug Fister (right forearm tightness) to rejoin the rotation. … RHP Stephen Strasburg (neck stiffness) is scheduled to start Wednesday for Double-A Harrisburg in what could be his lone minor league appearance.

Rays: LHP Matt Moore (elbow surgery) made his third rehab start for Class A Charlotte and may be back late this month.

UP NEXT

Nationals RHP Jordan Zimmermann (2-2) and Rays RHP Matt Andriese (1-1) are Wednesday night’s starters when the home-and-home series shifts to Washington D.C.

STILL A BIG SURPRISE

Principal owner Stuart Sternberg said the Rays being in first place might be more of a surprise than in 2008, when they went to the World Series. “To be where we are, with peoples’ expectations of the type of team we were expected to have, and then the almost unimaginable amount of players on the disabled list, it’s beyond improbable,” he said. “To me it’s a greater feeling, at this point, than ‘08.”

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