ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Rays are putting together one of the best starts ever.
The Rays routed the Oakland Athletics 11-0 Sunday to improve to 9-0 as Drew Rasmussen combined on a one-hitter and Brandon Lowe hit a grand slam. Tampa Bay is the first team to win its first nine games since the 2003 Kansas City Royals.
“Essentially, everything is going exactly the way that we want to,” Lowe said. “This is incredible baseball that we’re playing.”
Tampa Bay has outscored opponents 75-18, scoring the most runs in the big leagues and allowing the fewest.
“It just opens things up,” Rasmussen said of the Rays’ offense. “The way they’re going right now, it’s unbelievable.”
The Rays have won every game by four or more runs, trailing only a 13-game run by the 1884 St. Louis Maroons of the Union Association as the longest at a season’s start. The streak is the longest at any point of a season since 10 by the 1939 New York Yankees.
The longest winning streak at a season’s start is 13 by the 1982 Atlanta Braves and 1987 Milwaukee Brewers.
Oakland has lost seven of nine. The Athletics were outscored 22-0 in the final two games of the series and limited to four hits, dropping their batting average to .192. The team ERA jumped from 7.00 to 7.54.
The Athletics run differential of minus-45 through nine games is the third worse since 1900, only behind the 1955 Kansas City Athletics (minus-55) and the 1988 Baltimore Orioles (minus-48).
“I think we’ve got to put this series behind us,” Oakland manager Mark Kotsay said. “We’ll talk about it, how we get better going forward.”
Wander Franco and Harold Ramírez also homered for the Rays, who have hit a big league-leading 24 long balls.
Rasmussen (2-0) allowed his only runner on Ramon Laureano‘s two-out double in the second and has given up three hits over 13 scoreless innings in two starts. He struck out eight and walked none.
Ryan Thompson got three straight outs, and Jason Adam worked around a leadoff walk in the ninth.
James Kaprielian (0-1) allowed seven runs, seven hits and three walks over 4 2/3 innings. Oakland pitchers walked seven and hit two batters.
“It’s fundamentals that we’re failing at right now,” Kotsay said. “Again, today we walk seven, hit two, so the storyline here is we need to be better on the mound as well.”
Lowe’s drive was the only hit in the fourth to leave the infield as Tampa Bay took a 5-0 lead.
Isaac Paredes was hit by pitch starting the fourth, and Ramírez was credited with a single when third baseman Jace Peterson looked at second after fielding a ball and threw late to first.
Christian Bethancourt reached on a two-out fielder’s choice when Ramírez beat Aledmys Díaz’s throw to second base from deep in the shortstop hole. Lowe then connected for his his third career slam.
Ramirez said he was told by first base coach Chris Prieto the pitch before you’ve got to get second on a groundball.
“I don’t get that at-bat without Harold,” Lowe said. “I think owe him a steak later in this year.”
Paredes drew a two-out walk in the fifth and came on Ramírez’s homer.
Randy Arozarena had a RBI single in a two-run sixth that was set up when second baseman Tony Kemp caught a pop up by Franco but threw to an undercovered first base trying to double up Lowe.
Franco had a solo shot in the first.