Rays make history at the expense of the Red Sox

Boston Red Sox v Tampa Bay Rays
Boston Red Sox v Tampa Bay Rays / Mike Carlson/GettyImages

Watching a division rival achieve a historic level of success is painful enough, but it stings even more when it comes at our team's expense. The Tampa Bay Rays swept the Boston Red Sox in a four-game series at Tropicana Field to move to 13-0, tying a major league record for the most consecutive wins to begin a season in the modern era.

The 1982 Braves and 1987 Brewers also started their seasons 13-0.

We haven't even reached the middle of April yet and the Red Sox are already buried at the bottom of the AL East, trailing the Rays by eight games in the standings.

The Red Sox continue to struggle in Tampa Bay

The Trop has become a house of horrors for the Red Sox, who have lost 13 consecutive games in Tampa Bay. This is the franchise's longest losing streak at one road venue since a stretch from August 4, 1964 to May 7, 1966, when the Red Sox lost 17 consecutive games at Metropolitan Stadium against the Twins, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

The Red Sox haven't won a game in Tampa Bay since April 22, 2022. Corey Kluber took the loss as the starting pitcher for the Rays that day. Nearly a year later, another loss was pinned on Kluber, this time as the starter for the Red Sox.

Tampa Bay has been steamrolling teams this season. They won each of their first nine games by at least four runs, outscoring their opponents 75-18.

At least the Red Sox managed to make the games competitive for part of the series. They dropped a 1-0 pitcher's duel to open the series and a 9-7 slugfest two day later. Boston brought the tying run to the plate in the ninth inning in each of those losses, only for their rally to fall short.

Thursday's finale started out promising with the Red Sox holding a 3-1 lead in the fifth inning. That's when the floodgates opened for the Rays lineup. Kluber was given the hook after allowing three base runners, one of whom scored to cut the lead to one. Richard Bleier came in from the bullpen with two outs and men on the corners. The lefty failed to retire the next five batters, culminating with a bases-clearing double by Harold Ramírez. In the blink of an eye, the Rays took a commanding 8-3 lead.

Boston's chances of avoiding a sweep were hindered by the spring training lineup they rolled out against the Rays. With Adam Duvall sidelined since the end of the previous series with a fractured wrist, Masataka Yoshida ailing from a sore hamstring and Rafael Devers getting a day off at the end of the road trip, the Red Sox had an underwhelming lineup against a dominating Rays pitching staff. Six of the nine players in the Red Sox starting lineup own a career WAR lower than 3.0.

Known more for their ability to develop quality pitching in recent years, it's the Rays offense that has fueled their historic streak. Tampa Bay entered the day leading the majors in runs scored, on-base percentage and slugging. They should increase their lead in those categories after hammering the Red Sox for nine runs today.

Tampa Bay homered twice in this game to bring their season total to a major league-leading 32 this season. Only the 2000 Cardinals and 2019 Mariners have hit more home runs through the first 13 games of a season (both had 33, per MLB.com's Sarah Langs).

Boston's struggles against divisional opponents was a theme throughout last season. One reason to be optimistic about this year is that MLB's balanced schedule means fewer games against teams in your own division. The Red Sox won't see the Rays again until June, by which point they might have cooled off a bit. Maybe. Boston won't return to Tampa Bay until September, so at least they have a lengthy reprieve from visiting this dome of disaster.