ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays stumbled through Friday's loss to the Rangers. Manager Kevin Cash called the effort disappointing.
That night began a stretch off 36 games against teams with winning records. That night raised the question: Have they mailed it in?
The answer: If two more games against the Rangers are any indication, then no.
"They knew (Friday) wasn't their best effort, and they're capable of more," Cash said after Sunday's 8-4 win. "They came in the last two (games) and did that. They should feel good about themselves right now."
The Rays (52-70) took two of three from the AL West-leading Rangers (73-52). Tampa Bay is 5-1 on this 10-game homestand and 14-9 since July 27.
"We're not thinking about record right now," second baseman Logan Forsythe said. "I think we're trying to realize where this club's at and where we might be at the start of spring training next year. We're trying to build and just become a more complete ballclub."
Sunday's win followed Saturday's formula, which was the formula laid out when the team broke spring training in April: good starting pitching, good relief, power from the offense.
Drew Smyly had another solid outing, winning his third straight start. He's 4-0 with a 2.79 ERA in his past six.
Forsythe, no longer bothered by back spasms, returned to the lineup as the DH and separated the game with a three-run homer that capped a five-run fourth inning.
Steven Souza Jr. iced the win with a two-run line drive home run into the left-centerfield seats in the eighth inning.
Brad Boxberger turned in his first four-out appearance of the season, and Alex Colome, pitching in a nonsave situation thanks to Souza's home run, retired the Rangers in order in the ninth.
"This is a good team," catcher Bobby Wilson said. "Obviously the record doesn't indicate that right now, but since I've been here I've seen guys playing hard, playing with enthusiasm and playing with pride. As rough as the season has been for these guys, there's not a whole lot of quit. The pitchers are giving us a chance to win ball games.
"I feel like the veteran guys in this clubhouse are not going to let the young guys play scared, play timid, just go out there and play and whatever happens, happens. Just play hard and not be scared of mistakes."
The test continues tonight when the AL wild card-leading Red Sox enter the Trop for the start of a four-game series.
"We're capable of winning," Smyly said. "I think our pitching is really coming around the second half of the season, and our lineup is very capable of doing damage like they did (Sunday). When you have those two things, you're going to win games."