Rays go to 12-0 behind Taj, bullpen

by Gary Shelton on April 13, 2023

in general

Thursday, 4 a.m.

Everyone loves new hope. And so, much of today's conversation about the Tampa Bay Rays will be about Wednesday night's starting pitcher.

Maybe, however, they should save a few adjectives for the guys at the end.

Sure, Taj Bradley -- filling in for an injured Zach Eflin -- was dynamic in his major league debut against the Boston Red Sox. He struck out eight batters in five innings and got the win in the Rays' 9-7 victory.

Yeah, he was impressive.

But so were Jason Adam and Pete Fairbanks, the guys in charge of shutting out the lights.

The game had been a rout, but suddenly, the Red Sox had inched closer. It was 8-7, and the normally solid bullpen had given up four runs (three of them on a homer by Rafael Devers.

Then came Adam, who retired three straight batters (two on strikeouts). And behind him came Fairbanks, who retired the Red Sox , facing four hitters for his second save.

In the meantime, the Rays stretched their record to 12-0 with another offensive outburst. Wander Franco had three doubles (and two RBI). Randy Arozarena had a there run homer and four RBI.

Ah, and there was Bradley, shining in front of his mother (who celebrated a birthday). Bradley seemed nervous at the start and was wild high. But the Rays built an 8-3 lead and threatened to run away.

"Pretty impressive," said Rays' manager Kevin Cash. "You could tell he had some jitters early on — he kept missing up with the fastball. Credit him for harnessing it. The fbastball played. The slider helped him get back into the zone. Then he dropped some pretty good curveballs to some pretty good hitters."

Around the country, there seems to be a narrative forming that the Rays' streak isn't really that impressive because of the competition they've played. And, sure, it's a factor. What isn't?

But the Rays have a history of losing to some fairly pedestrian teams. They lost seven times to this same Boston team last year, for instance.

The Rays have accomplished this much: They're better than we expected. The hitting is better, and more powerful. The pitching is solid. The defense is good. The schedule? That will even out. But 12-0 is impressive. Only two teams ('87 Milwaukee and '82 Atlanta) have done better.

The Rays can tie those teams today as they go for a four-game sweep against Boston at Tropicana Field at 1:10 p.m. Jeffrey Springs will start for the Rays against former Ray Corey Kluber.

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