Tampa Bay Rays' Avisail Garcia, left, shakes hands with first base coach Ozzie Timmons after his RBI single against the Baltimore Orioles during the eighth inning of a baseball game Tuesday, April 16, 2019, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Tampa Bay Rays continue to be one of the hottest teams in baseball

The Tampa Bay Rays have quickly become one of the hottest teams in baseball.

After Wednesday nights 8-1 shelling of the Baltimore Orioles, the Rays improved to 14-4 on the season.

The Rays have won eight of their last nine games and now own a five and a half game lead in the AL East.

How it happened

Tampa Bay got off to a quick start, dropping three runs in the first inning thanks to Brandon Lowe’s home run. It was the rookie’s fifth homer of the season.

The lead was expanded in the second. Former Florida Gator Mike Zunino made it 4-1, hitting a single to center to score Kevin Kermiar.

Two more runs scored an inning later. Ji-Mann Choo made it 5-0, blasting a solo-blast to center field. It was his first home run of the season. Yandy Diaz then followed suit, crushing a solo home run of his own to left field, making it 6-0.

On the flip side, the Rays pitching was in the usual form.

After Ryne Stanek pitched a scoreless first, Yonny Chirinos pitched the next five innings and was lights out. The first year right-hander allowed only one hit and struck out five to pick up the win.

Wilmer Font and Emilio Pagan pitched the final three frames for the Rays, combining to allow the lone Orioles run and one hit.

The Rays added runs in the fifth and seventh inning. Kermiar drove in his 10th RBi of the season with a single to center that scored Lowe, making it 7-1. It became 8-1 when Diaz smacked a double to center field that brought Choi home.

Diaz finished the game 2-4 with two RBI’s while Choi went 2-2 and drew a pair of walks.

Best record in MLB

With the win, the Rays continue to hold the best record in the MLB. The early season success is due in large part to the pitching. Tampa Bay’s pitching staff has allowed a league-low 2.33 ERA through the first 18 games. To put that into perspective, the Detroit Tigers have the second-lowest ERA in the AL at 3.00.

The offense has been nearly as impressive. The Rays are fourth in the AL in batting average, hitting .269 as a team and scoring five runs a game.

However, what might be most impressive is the run differential. The Rays have scored 47 more runs than they’ve allowed, which is 17 runs better than the second place Seattle Mariners.

Going for the sweep

After Wednesday nights win, the Rays will have a chance for the sweep of Baltimore on Thursday night. The Rays will give third-year pitcher Hunter Wood his first start of the season. Wood has thrown only four innings this season, all of which have been scoreless.

For Baltimore, Andrew Cashner will be on the mound. He’s 3-1 on the season and posts a 5.31 ERA.

First pitch tonight is at 7:10 pm.

About Michael Knauff

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