The Tampa Bay Rays are the best team in baseball, yet the naysayers continue to dismiss the Rays’ hot start to the season.
With the 3-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday afternoon, the Rays are 26-6 and are off to the best start of the season since the 1984 Detroit Tigers went 27-5 in their first 32 games.
The 1939 New York Yankees were the last team to start the season 26-6, and they ended up winning the World Series.
The Rays are only the sixth team in MLB history to start a season 26-6, and all of those teams went on to win 100 games or more. In addition, all five teams made the World Series, with four winning the title.
It’s time to start giving the Rays the credit due to this team.
Zach Eflin, who signed a 40 million dollar contract in the off-season, shut down the Pirates in seven innings, throwing 80 pitches. Eflin had his first career start with double-digit strikeouts as he improved to 4-0 on the season.
The Rays could only scrape together five hits off Pirates starter Vince Velasquez and the bullpen. But solo home runs by Yandy Diaz, Randy Arozarena, and Taylor Walls provided all the offense the Rays would need.
So how is this team the best in baseball and among the league leaders in offense and pitching?
The Rays Have No Weakness
First off, there is no weakness on this team. Wander Franco has missed a game or two, as has Brandon Lowe. And Jose Siri has spent some time on the DL. However, when one of the starters has missed a game or two, Luke Raley, Josh Lowe, and Taylor Walls have been more than ready with the bat and glove.
Tampa has hit 64 home runs this season as they work toward the record of 307 set by the 2019 Minnesota Twins.
They have a +114 run differential which is 45 more than any other team.
The team also lead the majors in hitting with a .278 average.
The pitching has been just as impressive for this Tampa team.
They currently lead all of baseball with a 2.87 ERA. The next closest team is the Houston Astros, with a 3.20 ERA.
They have put up these numbers without their number one starting pitcher Tyler Glasnow, who won’t return for a few more weeks.
Shane McClanahan Early Favorite To Win The Cy Young Award
Shane McClanahan is 6-0 and must be considered the front-runner for the Cy Young Award.
Rookie Taj Bradley has been exceptional when he has been given an opportunity going 3-0 with a 3.52 ERA with two walks and 23 strikeouts.
Now through the end of May, the competition gets a bit better so we will get a better feel for how good this Rays team is.
Competition Is About To Get Better
The Rays open up a three-game homestand against the New York Yankees Friday Night at Tropicana Field. The Trop will have the upper deck open and should be packed for all three games.
The Yankees are in last place in the American League East with a 17-15 record. The Yankees won the season series with the Rays last season 11-8, outscoring the Rays 67-61.
The Rays and Yankees also met in the playoffs in 2020, with the Rays winning the five-game series on their way to a World Series appearance.
Then it’s a nine-game road trip that starts in Baltimore and will also have the team spending six days in New York City playing the Yankees and the Mets in a three-game series.
Then the Rays return home for nine games, where they will play Milwaukee, Toronto, and the Los Angeles Dodgers.