Rays loom large in Boston's rear-view mirror

By Steve Ginsburg

Tampa Bay had its five-game win streak snapped in Tuesday's 4-2 loss to the Baltimore Orioles and now trail Boston by four games in the chase for the American League wild card.

But just 11 days ago, that deficit was nine games.

"We're in the playoffs already," he said. "We began our playoffs on September 9 on Friday night at home versus the Red Sox (a 7-2 win). "That began our playoffs.

"And now we have to keep that mentality for the next two months. We're capable of doing that."

Beginning with a September 3 victory over Baltimore, Tampa Bay has won eight of 10 and is chasing a Red Sox club stumbling down the homestretch.

Rays third baseman Evan Longoria said playing in a division with the Red Sox and New York Yankees lends itself to playing outside of the spotlight, a situation he enjoys.

"This is what we hoped for," he said. "We wanted to be in a position at the end of the year where we have a chance to make the playoffs and fly under the radar the whole time.

"The Yankees and Red Sox are going to get the majority of the attention and rightfully so. But our goal all along is to control what we can and play meaningful games in September."

The Rays have the top defense and earned-run average in the American League, a dangerous combination in the postseason.

"The word is if we make the playoffs we're going to be tough to beat. But we have to make it first. It's not going to be easy.

"The Red Sox and Yankees are experienced ball clubs that know how to win these situations. We're still the underdog. We still have a ways to go. But I like our chances."

After Boston, the Rays visit Yankee Stadium for a four-game set against the division leaders. It is a daunting schedule but the Rays are playing their best ball at the right time.

"We're rolling on all cylinders now, from top to bottom," said Rays outfielder Johnny Damon. "We're making things happen. Hopefully, we can continue to be a top story out there.

"Every game right now is a make-or-break for us. We know the importance of laying it out there."

(Editing by Frank Pingue)