BOSTON — After noticing, and publicly acknowledging, that his Rays were playing tight, manager Joe Maddon tried a couple of different ways to get them out of a recent funk and back into the playoff race.
And giving them freedom to do whatever they wanted to prepare for the last week of games seems to have worked the best.
"Guys are relaxed," CF B.J. Upton said. "We come in and relax and joke around and I'm sure y'all hear us in the corner talking football and talking a little trash to each other.
"That's us, man, and we needed to get back to that. Joe's done a great job of recognizing that and just kind of letting us go and nor worry about anything."
Maddon said he very much wanted the Rays to maintain the same approach this week, though the schedule is a little different on the road, and the same attitude of looking only at that day's game.
LHP David Price, who starts tonight, said it has been working. "Everybody in this clubhouse has a positive outlook right now, and that's good," he said. "We're just coming in here trying to win one game at a time. We've done a good job of that the last couple of days."
20-20 VISION: If Price, who in 2010 became the first Ray to win 19 games in a season, is going to become their first 20-game winner, it's a pretty simple equation: He has to beat the Red Sox tonight and the White Sox on Sunday.
"That's not what I'm thinking about," Price said. "I'm thinking about going out and helping us win in Boston, whether it be the same way I did a couple days ago (pitching into the eighth with no decision) or going out there and actually getting a decision.
"Obviously 20 would be very cool. But if not, hopefully I can get 19."
While the Rays have shuffled their rotation a bit around him, Price will be starting on a standard four days rest both times, and then be lined up to pitch a potential wild-card playoff game Oct. 5.
"I feel good," he said. "It's good to be able to spend those five days like we're used to."
MISCELLANY: 3B Evan Longoria, who has 20 RBIs in his past 25 games, moved past Aubrey Huff for third place on the Rays' all-time RBI list at 450; Carl Crawford is first at 592 and Carlos Peña next at 464. … Upton joined Peña as the only Rays to hit 10 homers in September. … The Rays' 15 shutouts are a franchise record and the fourth most in the AL over the past four years, behind the 2011 Rangers (19), 2010 A's (17) and 2012 Angels (16).