Rays (8-0!) chasing mark not seen in 84 years

Tampa Bay has won all 8 by 4-plus runs, the best such streak since the 1939 Yankees

April 9th, 2023

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays are off to the hottest start baseball has seen in two decades, if not ever.

After three quiet innings against Oakland starter Shintaro Fujinami, Tampa Bay’s bats broke loose once again to support another scoreless outing from and send the unbeaten Rays to an 11-0 victory on Saturday afternoon at Tropicana Field.

The Rays’ season-opening eight-game winning streak is the longest in the Majors since the Royals ran up a 9-0 record in 2003. The longest season-opening winning streak of all time is 13 games.

“If the goal is to make the postseason, we've definitely put a dent into where we need to get to at the end of the year,” said starter Drew Rasmussen, who will pitch Sunday’s series finale. “We will go through some adversity, but the ability to enjoy what we're doing right now is something special -- and I think it's something that we're all doing. Because winning's fun, and we're doing it at a pretty good clip right now.”

But the Rays aren’t just banking wins at this point. They are running roughshod over opponents, having taken every game by at least four runs, the second-longest streak of its kind in AL/NL history.

In fact, the last team with at least eight straight wins, all by four runs, at any point in a season was the 1939 Yankees, who reeled off 10 such victories in a row.

The Rays have outscored their opponents, 64-18. Their plus-46 run differential through the first eight games of the season ranks as the largest ever in the Modern Era (since 1900), shattering the previous record of plus-40 set by the White Sox in 1955 and matched by Cleveland in 1999.

“When you're winning games like this, a lot of things have got to be going well,” manager Kevin Cash said. “So I think we're all pretty impressed with every facet of it.”

The formula on Saturday was the same as it has been since Opening Day. Springs started an outstanding pitching effort, striking out seven over seven innings, and everyone in the lineup eventually brought something to the table. It just took a little longer for them to get rolling this time around.

Fujinami stifled the Rays the first time through the order, limiting them to just a two-out walk by  in the third inning. But Tampa Bay’s hitters clearly made an adjustment after that and capitalized on the right-hander’s tendency to work outside the strike zone.

After a walk and a single in the fourth, got the scoring started with a two-run single. Then the Rays’ patience really paid off in a three-run, nine-batter fifth. was hit by a pitch, Mejía and walked, then  delivered a two-run single. Reliever Sam Moll plunked pinch-hitter Harold Ramírez to reload the bases, then Paredes wore another pitch to plate another run.

Margot (solo homer) and Lowe (three-run shot, his first of the season) went deep in the sixth to put the game even further out of reach. The A’s turned to Carlos Pérez to mop up the eighth, and Arozarena ruined the catcher’s first career pitching appearance with a two-run homer to left-center field.

Eleven Rays have combined to hit 21 homers, most in the Majors and tied for the second-most ever within a team’s first eight games of the season. 

“We're having good at-bats. That's what's encouraging,” Cash said. “A lot of our early runs came because we had guys on base from walks … and then obviously we separated and got some home runs.”

Springs wasn’t quite as dominant as he was in his season debut last Sunday, when he struck out 12 Tigers over six hitless innings. But he was just as stingy.

After two walks in the second inning, he allowed a two-out single to Jace Peterson. But Oakland made the curious decision to send lumbering first baseman Jesús Aguilar from second base on the hit, allowing left fielder Luke Raley to easily cut him down at the plate with a 94.9 mph heave to Mejía.

Springs cruised from there, allowing one walk and one single the rest of the way as he ran his season-opening scoreless streak to 13 innings.

“When they're putting up runs like that, it just takes all the pressure off of us,” Springs said. “We can go out there and pitch, fill up the zone, kind of do what we do. Again, those guys are a lot of fun to watch right now.”