ST PETERSBURG – What do you say now, America?
Ready to embrace this nameless and bland baseball team from Tampa Bay? Ready to admit that something special is happening in the clubhouse, where everyone happily decides to dress up like a first baseman on Thursday?
Ready to stop looking for ways to explain the modern major-league-record-13-0 start?
“We don’t play baseball like everybody else plays baseball,” reliever Ryan Thompson said. “The way I saw us encourage and celebrate each other was unheard of. I’ve talked to a lot of people about this, and what we have is different. There is no ego here and the number of people willing to fill whatever role we need on a given day. Hitters are trying to move guys on the basepaths instead of trying to go big and bat stats. Pitchers willing to fit into roles unfamiliar to them.
“No egos, no complaints, all we want to do is win games.”
We can officially say that no team has done better in April. Thursday afternoon’s 9-3 victory over the Red Sox tied the 1987 Brewers and 1982 Braves for the longest streak to start a season in modern major-league history.
The Rays have the same 101-30 scoring margin as the Harlem Globetrotters and have been trailed in just six of their 117 innings this season.
Six! In 117!
“Nothing surprises me here anymore,” right fielder Luke Raleigh said.
Of course, the schedule has a lot to do with registration. There is no denying it. The Rays opened the season against three potential last-place teams (Detroit, Washington and Oakland) before beating the Red Sox in four straight games this week.
But consider this: The defending world champion Astros lost two of three against the Tigers last week. The Braves failed to sweep the Nationals, the Guardians stumbled against the Athletics and so on. Baseball is not a game made for dominance. Win 55 percent of your games and you’re likely to be in the playoffs.
In other words, there is no reason to apologize for being special. There is no point in parsing perfection.
“Once you get a little spark in this lineup,” second baseman Brandon Lowe said, “there’s no going back.”
Unlike teams with high-priced stars who suck all the oxygen out of the stadium, the Rays use diversity and roster manipulation to stay one step ahead.
Note the B-Lo. He is one of two guys on the active roster with an All-Star appearance on his resume. Over the last six games, he is 8-for-18 with five walks, five home runs and 12 RBIs. Still, when the Red Sox started left-hander Chris Sale on Wednesday, he started the day without a peep on the bench.
Consider Jason Adam. He was one of the most dominant hitters in baseball in 2022, pitching for the U.S. in the World Baseball Classic and happily going into the sixth or seventh inning without getting a save.
Consider the last two days, Zach Eflin missed a start with back tightness and Jeffrey Springs had to leave after three innings with an elbow problem. The Rays called up 22-year-old Taj Bradley to make his major-league debut on Wednesday, loaded Rule 5 draft pick Kevin Kelly on Thursday and moved 28-year-old career minor-leaguer Braden Bristow to the bigs. – Along with the league introduction series.
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Bradley and Kelly had their first major league hits. Bristow, who has one save in his Triple-A career, earned the save on Thursday.
“Eric (Neander) and Pete (Bentix) are doing a good job going deep into the season,” manager Kevin Cash said of the president and general manager of baseball operations. “I’ve heard Eric talk about it a lot. We want our roster to be as good as 14 or 15 to 40. I feel like we are, and we have a lot of guys who are going to contribute in the season. A lot of guys have already contributed.
“To go on a run like this, everything has to click.”
When it was over Thursday, they all contributed to the frivolity, mocking Yandy Diaz’s sartorial excellence. Kelly and Adam received the most votes for Best Yandy Impersonation.
“I hope there’s a cash prize for this,” joked Adam.
What is the best word to describe this group?
“Unified,” team owner Stuart Sternberg said.
The best way to describe the way they play?
“They’re out of their minds.”
Contact John Romano [email protected]. Follow @Romano_TBTimes.
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