The Tampa Bay Rays Are One Win Away From the Best Start to a Season in MLB’s Modern Era

  • The Rays are 13-0 and tied with two teams for the best start to a season
  • The 1982 Atlanta Braves were the first team to start the year 13-0
  • The 1987 Milwaukee Brewers also started 13-0, but didn’t make the playoffs
  • Only one team to start 10-0 or better won the World Series that year
Tampa Bay Rays logo at Tropicana Field
The Tampa Bay Rays are a win away from the best start to a season in modern MLB history. [Image: / Todd Carr]

Tampa Bay Rays historic win streak 

The Tampa Bay Rays are one win away from breaking the post-1900 Major League Baseball record for the longest undefeated streak to start a season.

explosive offense and truly dominant pitching

The Rays’ 13-0 start is tied with the 1982 Atlanta Braves and 1987 Milwaukee Brewers for the longest unblemished start to a new campaign. They have reached this milestone on the back of an explosive offense and truly dominant pitching.

As promising of a start as this is for Tampa Bay, history shows that it does not necessarily mean that they will be the best team in baseball by the end of the season. So, let’s examine just how good this team is and what its future may have in store.

Sheer dominance 

The Rays’ run differential of +71 is nearly three times better than the second-best in the league, the Milwaukee Brewers (+25). They have hit more home runs (32) than they have given up earned runs (30) and have won every game but one by at least two runs. That is significant because game spreads in baseball are almost always set at -1.5/+1.5, and they have still managed to deliver despite the betting handicap.

It should come as no surprise, then, that Tampa Bay also leads the league in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, and several other offensive metrics. They also have the best earned run average (2.23) by a comfortable margin.

The team has not faced the toughest competition in the world, but did just beat a decent Boston Red Sox team in four games. Before that, they swept the Oakland Athletics, Washington Nationals, and Detroit Tigers all in three-game series.

Tampa Bay’s combined salary is less than 22% of the league’s biggest spenders

The most impressive characteristic of this Rays team is that it has the third-lowest payroll in baseball. Only the Baltimore Orioles and A’s allocate less to their rosters, and Tampa Bay’s combined salary is less than 22% of the league’s biggest spenders, the New York Mets. 

The Rays will lose at some point, but they have already inflicted a lot of damage just a few weeks into the season. Their five-game lead in the American League East, a division that has beaten up itself relentlessly in recent seasons, could have a huge impact when the playoffs roll around. 

How have other hot starters fared?

So what about those other teams that got to 13-0 before suffering their first loss?

The first team to do it, the ‘82 Braves, suffered their first loss at the hands of the Cincinnati Reds 2-1. They only went on to finish the year 89-73, meaning they went 76-73 after their flawless start and were swept by the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS. St. Louis went on to beat the Brewers 4-3 in the World Series.

went on a shocking 12-game losing streak a month later

The ‘87 Brewers had their undefeated streak snapped in the 14th game by the Chicago White Sox in a 7-1 defeat and went on a shocking 12-game losing streak a month later. They finished the year at 91-71, better than the ‘82 Braves, but were only third in the AL East and missed the postseason entirely. The Detroit Tigers (98-64) and Toronto Blue Jays (96-66) were the two teams ahead of them.

The record for the longest winning streak to start a season in any era belongs to the 1884 St. Louis Maroons, who went 20 games before finally losing. The short-lived Maroons technically played in the Union Association, but MLB officially recognizes it as a “major league” and thus all statistics and records count.

Looking at other teams that started the season with double-digit winning streaks, the 1981 Oakland A’s went 11-0 before they were handed their first loss. The season was later split by a labor strike, but ended with the A’s getting swept in the ALCS by the New York Yankees.

The 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers, 1962 Pittsburgh Pirates, and 1966 Cleveland Indians (now the Guardians) all started the year 10-0. That Brooklyn squad is the only team to have started the regular season with a double-digit win streak that achieved the ultimate goal of winning the World Series.

The Rays can stamp the best start in regular-season history with a win over their division rivals, the Blue Jays, Friday night. Toronto lost its most recent game, but has won seven of its last nine and ranks second in batting average and fifth in runs scored.

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