The longest winning streak to open a season in over three decades ended in Canada on Friday as the Tampa Bay Rays fell to the Toronto Blue Jays, 6-3, at Rogers Centre. The Rays had won their first 13 games of the season, tying the modern era record for best start to a season, which was set by the 1982 Atlanta Braves and matched by the 1987 Milwaukee Brewers.
The loss ensured that 1884 St. Louis Maroons will continue to stand alone with the greatest start in major league history, as they began the Union Association’s only season with a spotless 20-0 record.
The Rays had been so dominant that winning 20 straight almost seemed possible. After they won their 13th game on Thursday, Manager Kevin Cash said there was no part of their game that they were not happy about.
But on Friday, the Rays looked like a different team with sloppy defense, imprecise pitching and an inability to get hits in critical moments.
“Not much went our way tonight,” Cash told reporters in Toronto.
Now Tampa Bay, which even after a loss has still outscored their opponents by a combined 68 runs this season, has to make sure not to repeat the fate that befell the ’87 Brewers. A month after winning their first 13 games, the Brewers went on a 12-game losing streak.
Any hope the Rays had of establishing a new modern era record disintegrated during a three-batter stretch in the fifth inning. Colin Poche, a relief pitcher, walked two batters on nine pitches with the bases loaded.
“One strike in your nine pitches, it’s just not competitive,” Poche said.
Then the second baseman Brandon Lowe made an error that cost two more runs. Poche induced a bouncer to short, but Lowe failed to catch a routine throw from the shortstop Wander Franco that could have resulted in an inning-ending double play.
Dante Bichette went 5 for 5 for the Blue Jays and his run-scoring double in the second inning was his 500th hit in 407 career games. No other Blue Jay player has reached 500 hits in that few games. George Springer hit a leadoff home run against Drew Rasmussen, who became the first Tampa Bay pitcher to lose this season.
It was Tampa Bay’s first regular season loss since Oct. 5, 2022 at Boston, the last regular season game of that season (the Rays went on to lose both games of their wild-card series against the Cleveland Guardians).
Lowe said the defeat did not feel worse than any other during the course of a season.
“Every win is great,” he said. “Every loss is terrible.”