AL East-leading Rays opening just fine so far in 2019


By NOAH TRISTER - AP Baseball Writer



Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell throws against the Toronto Blue Jays during the first inning of a baseball game in Toronto on Saturday, April 13, 2019. (Fred Thornhill/The Canadian Press via AP)

Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell throws against the Toronto Blue Jays during the first inning of a baseball game in Toronto on Saturday, April 13, 2019. (Fred Thornhill/The Canadian Press via AP)


Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Tyler Glasnow throws against the Chicago White Sox during the first inning of a baseball game in Chicago, Wednesday, April 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)


Seattle Mariners' Jay Bruce, right, is congratulated by teammate Daniel Vogelbach, left, after his solo home run during the first inning of a baseball game against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Tuesday, April 9, 2019. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)


Now, this is an impressive opening for the Tampa Bay Rays.

Last year, the Rays pioneered the idea of an “opener” — a pitcher who would work an inning or two at the beginning of the game, facing some of the toughest hitters instead of having a traditional starter do it. Tampa Bay has still used that strategy on occasion in 2019, but that’s just part of the Rays’ strong start to the season.

Tampa Bay (12-4) has baseball’s best record and best run differential. The Rays lead the AL East by 5 ½ games, and if the gap stays that big for a few more days, a home series next weekend against defending champion Boston could start to feel a little more significant than a normal April meeting.

The Rays have baseball’s best ERA at 2.44 — and the starters are even better at 1.47. Tampa Bay has used the opener a bit — Ryan Stanek has made three starts that totaled five scoreless innings — but it’s the other four starters who have really shined.

Tyler Glasnow, acquired from Pittsburgh last year in a trade for Chris Archer, is 3-0 with a 0.53 ERA. Yonny Chirinos has won each of his two starts.

Blake Snell, the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner, is 2-1 with a 2.16 ERA. Charlie Morton, a free agent addition, is 2-0 with a 2.18 ERA.

The Rays are also fourth in the AL in on-base percentage and have stolen 16 bases in 17 attempts. The rest of their division hasn’t played its best yet, but Tampa Bay has earned its spot at the top so far.

Elsewhere around the majors:

EARLY LEADERS

Tampa Bay’s first-place showing isn’t a huge shock after the Rays won 90 games last year. San Diego, on the other hand, went 66-96, but the Padres (11-6) now have the NL’s best record.

San Diego’s start doesn’t seem as sustainable as Tampa Bay’s — the Padres have been outscored by three runs on the season. But star rookie Fernando Tatis Jr. has five home runs already, and with Manny Machado in the fold as well, the future suddenly looks a lot brighter in San Diego.

Seattle hasn’t made the postseason since 2001, but the Mariners have slugged their way to the top of the AL West. They lead the majors with 39 home runs.

Jay Bruce is off to a bizarre start for Seattle. Seven of his 10 hits this year have been home runs. He’s tied for second in the AL in homers, but is hitting just .169.

Seattle won 89 games last season, but the Mariners unloaded Robinson Cano, Edwin Diaz and Jean Segura in the offseason, which suggested a rebuild was underway.

HIGHLIGHT

Baltimore’s Chris Davis snapped his streak of 54 at-bats without a hit, lining a single with the bases loaded against Boston on Saturday. It was the longest hitless streak for a position player.

Davis finished the game with three hits .

LINE OF THE WEEK

German Marquez pitched a one-hitter for Colorado on Sunday in a 4-0 victory over San Francisco. He took a no-hitter into the eighth inning and finished with nine strikeouts in the first complete game in the major leagues this year. It was also the first complete game of his pro career.

Honorable mention: Kansas City’s Terrance Gore, who has made a name for himself as a baserunning specialist in his career, made his first major league start Wednesday night and had a single, double, triple and two stolen bases. He had two hits in his big league career before that game.

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Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister

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More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell throws against the Toronto Blue Jays during the first inning of a baseball game in Toronto on Saturday, April 13, 2019. (Fred Thornhill/The Canadian Press via AP)
https://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2019/04/web1_122685525-91aba03c6d8246be9aa517ad9529a7f9.jpgTampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell throws against the Toronto Blue Jays during the first inning of a baseball game in Toronto on Saturday, April 13, 2019. (Fred Thornhill/The Canadian Press via AP)

Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Tyler Glasnow throws against the Chicago White Sox during the first inning of a baseball game in Chicago, Wednesday, April 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
https://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2019/04/web1_122685525-16bc2ec929e94ffab6e3794dc541630e.jpgTampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Tyler Glasnow throws against the Chicago White Sox during the first inning of a baseball game in Chicago, Wednesday, April 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Seattle Mariners’ Jay Bruce, right, is congratulated by teammate Daniel Vogelbach, left, after his solo home run during the first inning of a baseball game against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Tuesday, April 9, 2019. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
https://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2019/04/web1_122685525-581a0af7acf545448c4776a8468a99b6.jpgSeattle Mariners’ Jay Bruce, right, is congratulated by teammate Daniel Vogelbach, left, after his solo home run during the first inning of a baseball game against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Tuesday, April 9, 2019. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

By NOAH TRISTER

AP Baseball Writer