ST. PETERSBURG -- Not even 5,785 air miles and three different time zones were able to slow down the Rays. After going 5-2 in a seven-game homestand to start the season, they were tasked with going on a three-city, nine-game, 11-day road trip to San Francisco, Chicago and Toronto.
Things could go in many different ways in such a long trip, but the Rays made the most of it. With an 8-4 win over the Blue Jays on Sunday, the Rays finished the trip with a 7-2 record and secured their fifth consecutive series win to start the season, which extends the franchise record.
"Good teams find ways to win on the road," said Rays manager Kevin Cash. "You always want to win at home, but getting out, our first trip, longer trip, [a] unique trip in that we covered three different time zones, and played the way we have."
Before the attention shifts to the nine-game homestand that begins Tuesday against the Orioles, let's take a look at five key numbers that helped the Rays go 7-2 on the road.
The Rays are built on stellar pitching and defense, but it was the offense that showed up in a big way for most of the trip. During the road trip, Rays hitters connected on 82 balls that resulted in an exit velocity of 100 mph or higher, which is the most by any team since April 5, which is when the road trip started.
"You're not going to hit that many balls hard every night. We recognize that," Cash said after Friday's win in Toronto. "But it's nice that it came in bunches, because we needed every one of them."
Perhaps even more impressive is the fact that 12 different hitters were able to reach that number, with Avisaíl García leading the way with 11. Mike Zunino had the hardest-hit ball of the road trip with a 116.1-mph double off the bat against the White Sox on Wednesday. The Rays finished with 15 home runs, led by Austin Meadows' four home runs, and finished with a .620 batting average in balls hit 100 mph or higher.
During the trip, the Rays scored 13 first-inning runs and dominated the opening frame. Meadows and Yandy Díaz both hit leadoff home runs over the nine-game road trip, and the Rays scored a first-inning run in seven consecutive games, a new franchise record and the longest by any American League team since the 2006 Indians. The Rays outscored opponents 13-1 in the opening frame during the nine-game road trip, with the lone run allowed coming in Sunday's finale against the Blue Jays.
"Our approach right out of the gate has been really solid, and when you put those runs on the board, not that it relaxes a pitcher, but I think it kind of, it gives them some confidence to navigate through tough lineups."
Rays starters allowed just four earned runs over 42 2/3 innings of work during the road trip, good enough for a 0.84 ERA. Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow led the way, allowing just one run in 24 innings of work. Ryne Stanek has also been solid in his opener role and has not given up a run in his three starts this season. Overall, Rays starters -- excluding the openers -- have given up only four earned runs in the team's 12 games.
"I don't think too many people want to see our pitchers," said Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier. "I don't care who you are, man. These guys are putting on a show right now, they really are."
The Rays' bullpen, however, struggled during the nine-game road trip. After finishing the opening homestand with a 0.64 ERA, Tampa Bay's bullpen allowed 24 earned runs during the road trip and finished with a 5.94 ERA.
The Rays' lineup finished with 39 extra base hits during the nine-game road trip, which was tied for second in the Majors with Oakland and behind only Seattle (42) during that stretch. Tampa Bay leads the big leagues with 21 doubles since April 5 and are ninth with 15 home runs. The three triples over the road trip were the second most in baseball. The Rays' offense scored 56 runs during the road trip, good for 6.2 runs per game.
Over the last 10 days, Rays pitching held opposing teams to a .333 slugging percentage, which is the best in baseball, and by a pretty good margin. San Francisco is second behind Tampa Bay and have held opposing teams to a .343 slugging percentage since April 5. The next closest team is the Astros with a .355 clip. Reliever Diego Castillo led the team with a 0.091 slugging percentage against during the trip.