Shipping up to Boston
The Rays tonight open what could be the defining series of their season, a four-game set at Fenway Park that will leave them either with a legitimate chance to run down the Red Sox over the final 10 days of the season or playing out the schedule lamenting how close they came.
Trailing the Sox by four games, with 14 to play, after wasting a prime opportunity to gain ground by losing to the last place Orioles again, the Rays go into the series talking about needing to win at least three of the games.
"I don't know if you neccessarily have to sweep, but I definitely think you have to win the series, three our of four, without a doubt,'' Rays OF Matt Joyce said.
"We definitely have to win more games than they do,'' DH Johnny Damon said.
After an anemic offensive showing the last two nights in Baltimore - four runs, 10 hits, 21 Ks - the Rays are hoping the charged atmosphere of Fenway Park wakes them up. They need something, so manager Joe Maddon is hoping that allows them to turn it around. "Absolutely you can,'' he said after Wednesday's loss. "You've just got to get to another city and play a different team sometimes. Let's get out of here, move up there and get our mojo back.''
The Red Sox are struggling and shorthanded, which feeds the Rays confidence. So does the potential of the Nation's worry wearing on the Red Sox.
"This is crunch time,'' Damon said. "They know they have to win ball games, and we know that also.''
"I think the biggest thing for us is we can't press,'' 3B Evan Longoria said. "We can't put any additional pressure on ourselves. We really have to understand we've been the underdogs so to speak, we've been under the radar all year. So really the pressure isn't on us, the pressure is on the teams above us to stand their ground and continue to win. Our job is really just to do what we've done the whole year that's made us successful up to this point.''