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Rays swept out of playoffs, quickly ending a season that began with a stellar start

Tampa Bay Rays' Curtis Mead heads back to the dugout after he struck out looking to end the game as the Texas Rangers beat the Rays 7-1 during Game 2 in an AL wild-card baseball playoff series, Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2023, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
John Raoux/AP
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AP
Tampa Bay Rays' Curtis Mead heads back to the dugout after he struck out looking to end the game as the Texas Rangers beat the Rays 7-1 during Game 2 in an AL wild-card baseball playoff series, Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2023, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

The Rays won 13 straight in April, but they were dispatched from the postseason for the third straight year. Texas won Game 2 of the AL Wild Card series, 7-1, before 20,198 fans at the Trop.

The Tampa Bay Rays looked like the team to beat when they started the season 13-0 while outscoring opponents 101-30.

Two days into the postseason, the Rays quickly were dispatched for the third straight year.

Texas beat the Rays 7-1 on Wednesday for a two-game sweep of their American League Wild Card series in St. Petersburg.

Attendance for Game 2 was 20,198, another below-sellout crowd at Tropicana Field but up slightly from Tuesday's 19,704. That was the lowest figure for a major league postseason game since the 1919 World Series, other than 2020 games played during the coronavirus pandemic.

The potent offense that spearheaded Tampa Bay to first place from opening day through mid-July faded down the stretch.

“It's frustrating, but it's part of the game,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said.

Curtis Mead's seventh-inning RBI single stopped Tampa Bay's 33-inning postseason scoreless streak dating to last year, The streak was the second longest in MLB history, trailing only the Los Angeles Dodgers 34-inning run from 1966-74.

Tampa Bay hit .161 in four playoff games over two years.

Tampa Bay lost key contributors from the impressive start.

That 13-0 start matched the 1982 Atlanta Braves and 1987 Milwaukee Brewers, trailing only the 20-0 start by the 1884 St. Louis Maroons of the Union Association. The Rays led the AL West from opening day and then were overtaken by the Orioles in mid-July.

Tampa Bay lost key contributors from the impressive start.

Shortstop Wander Franco was placed on administrative leave by Major League Baseball in August as Dominican Republic authorities look into allegations of a relationship with a minor. Slugging second baseman Brandon Lowe ended the season sidelined by a knee injury, while center fielder Jose Siri returned from a fractured right hand for Game 1 but didn't play on Wednesday.

“Look, that's a easy narrative,” Cash said. “We are who we are, and we finished the regular season with the guys we had. I still feel that we could have had a better showing with the roster we had.”

Zach Eflin, Wednesday’s losing pitcher, said the abrupt ending isn't easy.

“We didn't expect to be out right now,” Efllin said. “There's no easy way to say it sucks. I really didn't have any offseason plans until the first week of November and the second week of November. It's not a good feeling.”

Tampa Bay has lost a franchise-record seven straight postgame games.

“Unfortunately this is a series where we couldn’t get runs, we couldn’t get enough guys on base,” Tampa Bay shortstop Taylor Walls said. “We couldn’t quite hold their offense and keep their offense quiet enough to try and make things happen.

Eflin, tied for the AL lead with 16 regular-season wins. He and Game 1 starter Tyler Glasnow combined for 6.30 ERA against the Rangers, allowing seven earned runs in 10 innings.

“I just thanked them.” Cash said of his parting words to the team. "It's a pretty special group. Want more for them than maybe we got. But thanked the staff, the support staff and mostly the players for the way that they kind of held everything together."

Adolis García and Evan Carter homered to back starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi to lead Texas, which advanced to the AL Division Series against the Baltimore Orioles. That series begins Saturday. in Baltimore.

Garcia and Carter, a 20-year-old rookie who became the second-youngest postseason player in franchise history, homered off Eflin.

Texas won a postseason series for the first time since 2011, when the Rangers reached the World Series before losing to St. Louis.

Eovaldi, beating the Rays for the third time this year, season, allowed six hits while striking out eight and walking none over 6 2/3 innings.

Garcia's leadoff homer began a four-run fourth inning against Eflin. Josh Jung had a RBI triple and Carter hit a two-run homer to right for the Rangers, 7-0 in postseason games at Tropicana Field.

Carter hit .306 with five homers and 12 RBIs over 23 games after making his major league debut on Sept. 8. He reached base in his first six postseason at-bats, doubling twice and drawing three walks.

The Rays finally got an out from the No. 9 hole when Colin Poche fanned Carter in the sixth inning. Marcus Semien and Corey Seager followed with run-scoring doubles.