The Rays improved to 6-0 and extended the best start in franchise history. They are off to the best start of any team since Baltimore opened 7-0 in 2016 and are the first team to win its first six games by four or more runs since the 1884 St. Louis Maroons won their first 13 by at least four runs.
“We've got some real serious magic on this team,” reliever Ryan Thompson said after closing out the win. “I think a lot of us could start to feel it in spring training. It's hard to explain. I just feel like the vibe is just a little unique this year versus what I've felt in the past.”
Taylor Walls and Randy Arozarena had two hits each for Tampa Bay, which has outscored opponents 44-13.
Shane McClanahan (2-0) allowed two runs on five hits and four walks over six innings, allowing at least one baserunner in every inning but the sixth. He struck out six.
“There's something real nice about when you settle in and cruise a little bit, but it's not as sweet as the ones where you've really got to earn it,” McClanahan said. “I had to battle and it was a fist fight and kudos to these guys in this locker room for having my back and fighting with me.”
McClanahan was aided by Arozarena, whose leaping catch on Joey Meneses saved a run in the first. Then Manuel Margot made a diving catch in right with a man on to end the seventh.
Victor Robles had two hits for the Nationals, who have lost five of their first six games.
“We're gonna get better. There's no doubt about that,” manager Dave Martinez said. “There's a lot of baseball left. Of course, I want to win every day, but I'm not gonna put any onus on the first week of the season.”
Washington starter Patrick Corbin (0-2) gave up six runs on 10 hits over six innings.
The Rays broke open a close game in the sixth. Corbin had retired 11 in a row before Ramirez lined a homer to center with two outs. Margot then singled, stole second and scored when centerfielder Robles lost Walls fly ball in the sun for a double. Walls scored on a single by Jose Siri to make it 6-2.
The Rays took a 3-1 lead in the third when Yandy Diaz singled and Franco followed with a line-drive homer into the Rays bullpen in left center.
A single by Michael Chavis scored Meneses to make it 3-2 in the fourth. Washington then loaded the bases with no outs, but McClanahan retired Robles on a short fly to right, and struck out CJ Abrams and Lane Thomas.
“He reaches back, gets a little bit extra, gets a little bit nastier, knowing the game's on the line right there,” manager Kevin Cash said of McClanahan. “From that point he went and got two more innings. ... Really, really impressed with Shane.”
The fourth inning was another example of Washington's struggles with runners in scoring position and they finished the game 3 for 12.
“We've got to start hitting with guys on base,” Martinez said. “We had a chance to blow the game open. Bases loaded, not outs and we couldn't get a run So we've got to start driving in runs.”
BOTH SIDES OF THE PITCH CLOCK
Thompson became the first Rays pitcher to record a strikeout via a batter timer violation when strike three was called on Ildemaro Vargas in the ninth. Two batters later the worm turned as a ball was called for Robles when Thompson started to come set before Robles was engaged and the clock was above eight seconds. Robles eventually walked.
Rays: RHP Zach Eflin (1-0, 1.80), who allowed one run over five innings in his Rays debut, pitches the opener of a three-game series against visiting Oakland on Friday.
Nationals: RHP Josiah Gray (0-1, 9.00), who gave up five runs against the Braves on Saturday, pitches the opener of a four-game series at Colorado.
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