March 15, 2024

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Rays Close in on MLB Record With 12-0 Start

4 min read
Rays Close in on MLB Record With 12-0 Start

Arozarena’s HR for three runs gives Tampa Bay the early advantage to support prospect Bradley in his debut.

The Rays had a five-run lead Wednesday night, and manager Kevin Cash briefly believed they might be able to pull away for yet another easy win.

“Shame on me for thinking that,” Cash said, “because Boston is a decent city.”

In the end, the Rays held off a Red Sox comeback and rode their relentless lineup to a 9-7 victory on Wednesday night, their 12th straight victory to start the season.

Tampa Bay has matched the Devil Rays’ 12-game winning streak from June 9–22, 2004, for the longest winning streak overall in the history of the team. The only teams in MLB’s modern era with longer season-opening winning streaks are the 1982 Braves and the 1987 Brewers, and the Rays can match their 13-0 starts with a victory in Thursday’s series finale at Tropicana Field.

“When we’re doing something that is a franchise record, it’s pretty meaningful, impactful,” Cash said. “The guys ought to be extremely proud of that.”

The Rays are most proud of how everyone contributed to their ability to put together this streak. That was the case once more on Wednesday when five relievers took the mound following top prospect Taj Bradley’s five-inning MLB debut, with five different hitters driving in runs.

Wander Franco and Randy Arozarena, however, two of Tampa Bay’s best players, were once again present during the team’s most important moments.

Franco continued his incredible start to the season by hitting three doubles, stealing a base, scoring two runs, and driving in two more. Arozarena started the scoring with a three-run home run in the first inning and finished it with a sacrifice fly in the eighth to give the Rays’ high-leverage pitchers some breathing room.

“We’re swinging the bats well,” Cash said. “Currently, Wander is blazing. … You’ll take them any way you can, like Randy’s idea of the sac fly. The game between the Rays and Red Sox is exactly like others where there is some back-and-forth.”

It was also a typical Rays game because they rarely fall behind and frequently outslug their opponents. With a plus-65 run differential through their first 12 games of the season, they have only trailed at the end of five of their first 108 innings this season, which is the third-best start in MLB history.

The first-inning blast by Arozarena marked Tampa Bay’s 30th home run of the year, which ranks third in MLB history among teams with 12 games played behind the 2019 Mariners (32) and the 2000 Cardinals (31).

Just as Cash had hoped for the 22-year-old right-hander, that gave Bradley an early lead in his Major League debut. In the fourth, the Red Sox countered with a run, but the Rays immediately struck back.

Taylor Walls, Christian Bethancourt, and Vidal Bruján loaded the bases at the bottom of Tampa Bay’s lineup to start a rally, which was then completed by the top of the lineup. Yandy Diaz blasted a sacrifice fly deep into center field, and Franco continued his hot start with a two-run double to left center field.

“I feel good, and I feel comfortable for being able to do the job — and not just for me, but everyone else is doing the job as well,” Speaking through an interpreter, Manny Navarro, Franco said. “We’re extremely happy about that.”

In the fifth, the two teams exchanged runs twice, but Boston wasn’t going down without a fight. After scoring on two groundouts and a Justin Turner double off Jalen Beeks in the sixth inning, the Red Sox were awarded an extra out in the seventh thanks to a Manuel Margot and Harold Ramirez error in right-center field during the previous inning. Rafael Devers took advantage of the situation and hit a three-run home run to left field off reliever Colin Poche, cutting Tampa Bay’s lead to one run.

The Rays, who had won 10 of their first 11 games by a margin of at least four runs, faced a rare close contest for the second time in three days. But once again, their star hitters and best relievers came through.

After Franco doubled and scored an insurance run on Arozarena’s sacrifice fly, Jason Adam pitched a perfect eighth inning. Despite a leadoff single, Pete Fairbanks managed to secure his second save in the ninth inning.

“I think we’re putting everything together,” Bethancourt said. “To be the best versions of ourselves, we are doing our absolute best. We’re not being egocentric. The offensive line is just being maintained. In terms of pitching, they’re doing a fantastic job, and hopefully, we can keep going and get to where we want to be, which is the World Series.”


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