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Rays wary of Tigers, but keep focus on themselves

ST. PETERSBURG — The Tigers might not be where they were expecting to be after assembling what looked to be one of the game's fiercest lineups, but as they come to the Trop this weekend the Rays are very aware of what they're capable of doing.

"They're still a potent offense," said LHP Scott Kazmir, who starts tonight. "You see like once a week they're putting up 10 or 11 (runs) or something like that. They're starting to get hot right now; guys are really starting to make a push.

"These games are important for them and for us."

The Rays have the best home record in the American League at 40-16, one win shy of their record for any one season (41 in 2004, 2006), and overall are 63-44, seven wins from their record for any full season (2004).

Manager Joe Maddon said while he is "fearful of their lineup" and expects the Tigers to get back in the postseason race, he has more pressing concerns.

"It's not about them, it's about us," he said. "We just have to continue to play our game, and we'll see how it all shakes."

CROWD CONTROL: Saturday's game, featuring the LL Cool J concert, is sold out, which is a good sign for the Rays since they are 14-1 with home crowds of 30,000-plus.

But there are plenty of good seats available for the other five games on the homestand.

"To the fans, believe me, the more they show up the better we're going to play, I know that," Maddon said. "It's been documented. Our guys are going to feed off that, and they have fed off that. It's great to go into our yard under those circumstances. So the fans have to understand they can make a difference in this pennant race."

MAN-RAM GOODBYE: Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman didn't sound too sad to see Manny Ramirez traded from the Red Sox to the NL's Dodgers: "He's done very well against us in the past; hopefully we see him again this year."

ROCCO REPORT: Tonight could be a big night for OF Rocco Baldelli, who is expected to play seven innings in rightfield for Double-A Montgomery in the final game of his 20-day rehab assignment. Friedman said the Rays are "very pleased" with his progress since being sidelined since spring with a rare muscle fatigue condition, but there are "some tests to run him through on the baseball field.''

GETTING BETTER: With an 8-5 record since the All-Star break, the Rays feel they're playing like they did much of the first half.

"It feels like it's back to normal, but we know it's going to be tough down the stretch," LF Carl Crawford said. "We don't expect it to be easy. We don't expect to have a big lead. We expect it to be close."

MISCELLANY: 3B Evan Longoria leads all major-league rookies with 19 home runs. … Saturday's sellout will be the Rays' fifth, the most in any season. … C Mike Difelice pitched the ninth inning for Triple-A Durham on Thursday.

Rays wary of Tigers, but keep focus on themselves 07/31/08 [Last modified: Friday, August 1, 2008 7:13am]
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