The Tampa Bay Rays are off to the best start of any major league team in seven seasons, which doesn’t bode well for the Oakland Athletics, who hit the road following a rough opening homestand.
The Rays look to improve to 7-0 while trying to extend Oakland’s early struggles in Friday night’s series opener at St. Petersburg, Fla.
Not only are the Rays off to the best start in franchise history, but their opening run is the longest since Baltimore went 7-0 in 2016.
Tampa Bay outscored the Detroit Tigers and Washington Nationals 44-13 to start the year. The Rays also won each game by at least four runs, becoming the first team to do so since the 1884 St. Louis Maroons while starting 13-0, according to Opta Stats and MLB.com.
“When you win six games out of the gate, a lot of people have got to do good things,” Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said. “And, it feels like, top to bottom, our entire roster is contributing in a positive way.”
The Rays are batting .284 and slugging an MLB-best .542 while hitting 13 home runs. Wander Franco and Josh Lowe are a combined 16-for-38 (.421) with three homers and 10 RBIs.
Tampa Bay’s Luke Raley, who totaled three homers in 55 games in his first two major league seasons, has already matched that mark and has six RBIs.
“I think these good moments, we have to take advantage of them,” said Rays star Randy Arozarena, batting .364 with a homer and six RBIs.
“As long as we keep working as a team, I think we’re going to be OK.”
On the mound, Tampa Bay has a 2.00 ERA as a staff with 51 strikeouts in 54 innings, and an opponents’ batting average of .202.
Friday’s scheduled Rays starter, right-hander Zach Eflin (1-0, 1.80 ERA) looks to build on his solid Rays debut when he allowed a run on three hits and struck out five with a walk over five innings of Saturday’s 12-2 home rout of the Tigers. The right-hander yielded two hits over four scoreless innings against the A’s last season, when he was with the Philadelphia Phillies.
The A’s were outscored 41-22 while losing two of three each to the Los Angeles Angels and Cleveland Guardians to open 2023. Oakland has been shut out once, and twice yielded at least 12 runs. The A’s lost a pair of 10-inning games to the Guardians by scores of 12-11 and 6-4.
Despite Oakland’s early issues, new addition Jesus Aguilar is off to a good start. The veteran is 5-for-15 with a homer in the last four games, but would rather celebrate some team success.
“It’s not about me,” said Aguilar, who is also 8-for-18 with two doubles and a home run versus Eflin. “It’s about winning games as a team, which, hopefully, we can start to do.”
Scheduled Oakland starter Ken Waldichuk (0-1, 9.53 ERA) looks to rebound from his rough opener against the Angels on Saturday, when he allowed six runs on three homers, and nine total hits, through 5 2/3 innings of a 6-0 loss. The left-hander has never faced the Rays.
–Field Level Media