On this day in 1998, the Tampa Bay Rays played their first regular season game in franchise history. Let us take a look back at that first game in Rays history.
It was time. After years of being teased as a relocation spot, and following the long wait after being awarded an expansion franchise, the Tampa Bay Rays were set to play their first game. The Devil Rays, as they were called back then, were set to face off against the Detroit Tigers. Wilson Alvarez, who signed as a free agent, was set to take the ball for the expansion franchise, cementing his place in team history.
After a scoreless first, Alvarez got into trouble immediately in the second. Three consecutive singles loaded the bases, and Joe Randa doubles to plate two runs. Joe Oliver followed with a two run single of his own, giving Detroit a 4-0 lead through two innings.
Alvarez would not last much longer, recording only one out in the third before being pulled for reliever Dan Carlson. In his Rays debut, Alvarez allowed six runs on nine hits while recording seven outs. He did strike out two batters, but it was quite the inauspicious start to his time in Tampa Bay.
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Although Carlson managed to escape further harm in that inning, he did not have a great debut either. He performed better than Alvarez, albeit it by the barest of margins. In his 2.2 innings, he allowed five runs on six hits and two walks, striking out three.
It was not all bad for the Rays that day. Wade Boggs hit the first home run in team history when he took Justin Thompson deep in the bottom of the sixth, giving the Rays their first two runs. Dennis Springer fired three scoreless innings, keeping Tampa Bay from burning through their bullpen in their first game. Quinton McCracken and John Flaherty both had two hits, showing that the offense had some signs of life.
In the end, this performance set the tone for the year. The Devil Rays finished with a 63-99 record, 51 games behind the division winning Yankees. Alvarez continued to struggle throughout the season, posting a 6-14 record with a 4.73 ERA and a 1.388 WHiP, as he failed to be the ace the Rays needed. But really, what could one expect from an expansion franchise?
It took quite some time, but there was a bright future ahead for the Tampa Bay Rays. At least Major League baseball had finally come to Tropicana Field on this day in 1998.