ST. PETERSBURG — There probably need to be some qualifiers.
That this was just one game, and the second of a long season at that.
Also, more relevantly, that the opponent was the pitching-challenged Tigers.
Still, the Rays on Saturday showed the kind of offense they’ve been insisting they are capable of in a 12-2 win.
“That was a fun game,” manager Kevin Cash said. “They’re not going to be like that all the time. We know that.
“But it is nice when, early in the season like it is right now, there’s a lot of guys in that clubhouse that feel good about their at-bats, and that’s what you want. The last thing you want are guys, after two days, not feeling it or not getting the result. So very, very pleased with that.”
In improving to 2-0, the Rays flexed their muscle, with Yandy Diaz lacing a home run and the team rapping seven doubles (one off the franchise record), including two each by Wander Franco and Josh Lowe. Tampa Bay put the ball in play, with eight players combining to produce 13 hits.
The Rays used their speed. They took advantage of mistakes. They cobbled together a big inning, scoring seven times in a 13-batter third. They scored with two outs. They drew seven walks. They were opportunistic, going 8-for-16 with runners in scoring position.
They covered pretty much everything that has been a concern given their significant drop in production last year and absence of notable improvements this offseason, raising fair questions about their ability to score runs.
“It’s just kind of what we want. It’s good to see everything kind of come together like we had planned it to be,” said veteran second baseman Brandon Lowe.
“We’ve talked about it all spring. We’ve talked about it the whole offseason that, (if) we get our guys back healthy, we let our guys kind of mature a little bit and understand their approach a little bit more, we’re still going to be one of the best teams here. And I think we’re starting to prove that so far.”
They did all that to back an impressive Rays debut by free-agent addition Zach Eflin, who gave up one run over five strong innings. He allowed three hits and a walk while striking out five, throwing 57 of 74 pitches for strikes.
Eflin had a lot to be pleased with, from the way he moved the ball around and kept the Tigers guessing to how his off-speed pitches looked and his ability to get ahead in counts.
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Plus, he had a big group of family over from their Orlando-area homes, including his oldest daughter and wife, who recently delivered twins that are still in the NICU unit for a few more days.
And his new mates handed him the big lead, simplifying his approach.
“It was a good day at the yard,” Eflin said.
The Rays got a run in the first as their first four batters reached, then broke the game open in the seven-run, six-hit, 13-batter third.
By the end of a day that entertained the announced crowd of 20,204 at Tropicana Field, Diaz led the way with three hits, three RBIs and three runs scored. Franco did just about as much with three hits and three RBIs. Randy Arozarena, Jose Siri, Josh Lowe and Francisco Mejia also drove in runs.
“Pretty explosive,” Cash said. “The guys just really put together a bunch of good at-bats, timely hitting. ... When you score 12 or whatever we scored, a lot of people have to play a part — and they did.”
Diaz — who after going through the dugout tunnel celebration following his homer did a baby-rocking move in anticipation of his upcoming first child — said this is the kind of production the Rays are capable of, with 16 runs over the first two games.
“I think the lineup so far … (it’s) been showing off really well, and I think even guys off the bench have been coming in with good at-bats and it’s helping us,” Diaz said via team interpreter Manny Navarro.
“I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I always think we have the best team and we have the best lineup.”
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