The Citrus Series: MLB’s most unique ‘rivalry’

This weekend, the Tampa Bay Rays and Miami Marlins face off in a three-game series to finish up their home-and-home schedule in 2021.

The return of the Citrus Series at Tropicana Field has us re-living and re-visiting the history of one of the most unique ‘rivalries’ in MLB.

Miami got first dibs at MLB, entering the league in 1993 when it played games at then Joe Robbie Stadium, the home of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins. Poor ownership, however, got baseball in Florida off to a rough start, even with the Marlins winning it all in 1997.

Two years later, the Rays entered the fold and in 1998, the Citrus Series, an annual tradition in the Sunshine State was born. The main thing missing? Exciting, competitive teams.

UNITED STATES – JUNE 17: Baseball: View of Pro Player Stadium during Tampa Bay Devil Rays vs Florida Marlins game, Miami, FL 6/17/2001 (Photo by Bill Frakes/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)

From 1993 to 2007, the Rays and Marlins combined for four winning seasons and four 100+ loss seasons. Though the Marlins won two World Series championships in that time, 1997 and 2003, the impending fire sales that followed those championships overshadowed the team’s success on the field.

That didn’t matter to the Citrus Series as the Rays and Marlins would keep playing each other every season. In the first decade of the Citrus Series, the Marlins had the upper hand, going 34-22 against the Rays, including a combined 9-0 in 2003 and 2005.

UNITED STATES – MAY 22: Baseball: Tampa Bay Devil Rays Nick Green (18) in action during home plate slide vs Florida Marlins Paul Lo Duca (16), Miami, FL 5/22/2005 (Photo by Bob Rosato/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)

Since 2008, the script has been flipped, dramatically. The Rays have gone 46-24 against the Marlins, including an 11-2 record since 2019, and the all-time series is now 68-58 in favor of Tampa Bay.

It’s helped to produce some great moments, like in 2018, when the Marlins looked to sweep the Rays in late July at Tropicana Field, but utility infielder Daniel Robertson had different plans in mind.

In that same season of 2018, Miami and Tampa Bay played a 16-inning game at Marlins Park, where catcher Jesus Sucre was forced to pitch in extra innings and Jake Bauers doubled to send the Rays home winners.

Good players have come and gone from this rivalry. MVPs like Giancarlo Stanton, Miguel Cabrera and Christian Yelich reigned for the Marlins.

Cy Young winners David Price and Blake Snell shined on the mound for the Rays. The one thing both teams had in common was developing young stars as between the two franchises, they have produced seven Rookie of the Year winners.

Recently, we’ve seen plenty of young stars come through both organizations and there are plenty to come in the near future, but tonight, the “rivalry” resumes at Tropicana Field.

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