ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – No matter where you look, the numbers are of an eye-opening variety. To begin with, the Rays, who enjoyed a weekend of consecutive 11-0 wins over Oakland, are the first team in 20 years to open 9-0.
One can only think that Tampa Bay will perform much better over the next 153 games than the 2003 Kansas City Royals, who went 74-79 after winning their first nine games.
The last team to win as many as 10 straight to open a season, something the Rays will attempt to accomplish Monday night when they begin a four-game series against the visiting Red Sox, was the 1987 Milwaukee Brewers. Tom Trebelhorn’s club, which went 91-71 and finished third in the American League East behind division champ Detroit Tigers and the Toronto Blue Jays, won its first 13 games to match the 1982 Atlanta Braves for the best start in the modern era (since 1900).
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If the above is not impressive enough, consider the Rays have outscored the opposition 75-18 and have hit an MLB-best 24 home runs. Only the 2000 St. Louis Cardinals hit more home runs (25) in the first nine games of a season.
Among many other outstanding stats is the fact the Rays have hit six more homers than run allows. It helps, of course, when the pitchers in control. That has literally been the case for a pitching staff that has yielded all of 19 free passes, or a shade over two per game. To that extent, Drew Rasmussen threw seven outstanding innings Sunday (retired 21 of 22 batters) while allowing only one hit and not issuing a free pass. In 13 innings over two starts, he has not walked a single batter.
“His pitch efficiency is outstanding right now,” said manager Kevin Cash, following Sunday’s game. “Super efficient, really good stuff, strike throwing is elite as always.”
Patient and power-packed at-bats, picking each other up, superb pitching, excellent defense and hustle – see Harold Ramirez on Sunday for Exhibit A – have all come together during this memorable start.
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“Essentially, everything is going exactly the way we want it to,” said Brandon Lowe, who hit a grand slam Sunday and a three-run homer Saturday. “This is incredible baseball that we are playing and we hope to keep it up.”
Josh Fleming will take the mound for the Rays on Monday night (6:40) against Boston, which is 5-4 after a three-game sweep of the Tigers. Fleming will be opposed by Nick Pivetta.
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