ST. PETERSBURG -- For a moment Tuesday night, Yandy Díaz stood in place in the batter’s box, perfectly pausing his follow-through but for the bat he flung from his left hand onto the turf at Tropicana Field.
Before Díaz could finish celebrating his fifth-inning solo shot in the Rays’ dugout, he had to turn around. Brandon Lowe was admiring his own work, a Statcast-projected 417-foot moonshot he launched to right-center on the next pitch from Red Sox starter Garrett Whitlock.
The way Tampa Bay is playing, what else can you do but watch?
The Rays beat the Red Sox, 7-2, and ran their record to a perfect 11-0. They are tied with the 1981 Athletics for the third-longest season-opening winning streak in baseball’s modern era. Only the ‘82 Braves and ‘87 Brewers, who both started 13-0, have begun a season with more consecutive victories.
“Probably a lot of people don't expect it from us, and they're probably saying, 'How are they winning all these games?'” Díaz said through interpreter Manny Navarro. “And they're looking at us just playing baseball.”
If you’ve watched the Rays throughout this unbeaten streak, you’ve witnessed almost unprecedented dominance at the outset of a season.
Just how in control have the Rays been? They’ve played 99 innings this season and only trailed after five of them, all in one game against the Nationals on April 4. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Tampa Bay is just the third team to trail at the end of five or fewer of the first 99 innings of a season, and you have to go back 139 years to find the other two: the 1884 New York Gothams (two of 99) and the 1884 St. Louis Maroons (zero of 99).
The Rays also matched the MLB record for the most home runs in the first 11 games of a season (29, tied with the 2000 Cardinals), established a new franchise-best scoreless-innings streak (32, surpassing the previous mark of 27) and tied the second-longest winning streak overall in franchise history (May 13-24, 2021, one shy of the club record of 12 from June 9-22, 2004).
But they aren’t getting caught up in any of it. They play, they win, they celebrate, and they move on to the next one.
“The history of it's not lost on us, we can say that. We understand what's happening,” said Lowe, who has homered in a career-high-tying four straight games. “We're not putting any added pressure on anything. We're not staring at our schedule, staring at our record right now. We're just a bunch of guys in our locker room going out there playing the game we love and letting things take care of itself.”
After a narrow victory in Monday’s series opener, the Rays once again combined outstanding run prevention with a powerful offense and led from start to finish Tuesday night.
Pleased with an adjustment he made after walking three batters in the first two innings, starter Shane McClanahan ran his fastball up to 100.2 mph, struck out nine, permitted only two hits (none until the fifth inning) and exited with two on and nobody out in the sixth. Tampa Bay’s scoreless streak ended soon after, when Rafael Devers scored on a double-play grounder induced by reliever Garrett Cleavinger.
“I thought it was a good day,” McClanahan said. “Good team win, and that's what it's about.”
He had plenty of room to work with. The Rays scored two early runs off Whitlock, then came more of the most unexpected aspect of this whole streak: a bunch of home runs.
“Every year is always a little bit different,” Díaz said through Navarro. “It seems like this year, everyone's hitting home runs.”
But where did this come from? The Rays only had one four-homer game last season, and it took them 30 games to hit 29 home runs. They’ve already gone deep at least four times in three games this year, including Tuesday’s victory, to reach that mark.
“I think everybody's trying to stay within themselves, have a good at-bat and pass it on to the next guy. Obviously, when you do that, good things like this happen,” Josh Lowe said. “And it's pretty cool to see everybody locked in at the same time right now, so it’s a lot of fun.”