ST. PETERSBURG — There have been a couple of games, and there will be more, when the Rays can't do anything at the plate.
But for now, the hits keep on coming.
And so do the wins.
The Rays rolled over another dazed opponent Thursday, blasting the Royals 11-1 and improving their baseball-best record to 17-5.
"They're a difficult club to play right now," Kansas City manager Trey Hillman said. "You have to pretty much do everything right."
What the Rays have accomplished is easy to define: the best 22-game start in the last seven years, when the 2003 Giants and Yankees were 18-4 and — how long ago this must seem — the Royals were 17-5.
And how the Rays have done it is a simple equation: score the most runs in their league (as well as the majors) while allowing the fewest, the difference between their 142 and their opponents' 73 a tremendous plus 69.
"That's a nice differential right there," manager Joe Maddon said.
It's a formula that works well, and did so again Thursday. The Rays set a season high in hits for the second consecutive night with 15, including four by Carl Crawford, whose average is up to .341, and another strong effort by Matt Garza, who bounced back to pick up his team-record-tying fourth April win. Even the number of fans was (slightly) better, up to 12,766.
The offense has been overwhelming, though the Rays prefer to talk about it more in theory than practice.
Crawford called it a "nice disciplined offense" and said, "We're just trying to focus a little harder at the plate."
Maddon's preferred description — noting their major-league-leading .338 average with runners in scoring position — is "highly efficient."
"It's theoretically what you talk about all the time — you have a bunch of guys playing offense," Maddon said. "They're not playing for themselves, they're playing for the team right now. When you get one through nine working as one, and not just individually, you can do things like that."
There are a number of ways to quantify their performance, starting with their 142 runs, which translate to an average of 6.45 a game and a season pace that would total 1,046.
They've scored in double digits four times (all in the last eight games), won 10 times by six or more runs, had 10 innings in which they've sent at least nine to the plate, and they've scored five or more in seven frames.
"We know we can't hit like that the whole season," Crawford said, "but we don't want to be too far from it."
Or you can ask the guys in the other dugout.
Hillman: "It's tough to get them out right now. Give me another club that is this hot and this good for this point in time through the season."
Catcher Jason Kendall: "They're hitting everything — balls off the plate."
Starter Luke Hochevar: "They put a lot of good swings on some good pitches. … I felt everything I threw they were right on. So they're feeling pretty comfortable in the box."
And, perhaps foreshadowing what the Royals and others may resort to in an attempt to slow down the rolling Rays, Hochevar added: "That's my job to make them feel uncomfortable, if I've got to put someone on their back, whatever it is. When you've got a team going this good, that's something you've got to do."
Marc Topkin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.