ST. PETERSBURG -- Entering Monday night's game, the Rays had 20 games remaining on the schedule, with seven of those games coming against the Yankees. Many fans believe what happens in those games will determine the Rays' fortunes. Manager Joe Maddon does not agree.
"To me, it's rather easy," Maddon said. "We have 20 one-game series left, starting tonight. I'm not moving away from that. We're only going to play the last game of the season this year and win it if we go about our business in that manner.
"Regardless of who we're playing or where, I just want us to come out and prepare the same way. Just three tough series on the road. Baltimore played us really good. Boston did. And, of course, the three games against Toronto. You play in the American League East, it's like that every night. I just want us to go about our business as normal. Walking into the clubhouse today, they all looked the same and I felt really good about that."
Based on the standings entering Monday night's action, the Rays' situation now appears more like the team is fighting for seeding in the playoffs rather than survival, which prompted a question to Maddon regarding the importance the Rays attach to winning the AL East.
"We're going after first place hard," Maddon said. "We have a banner up there already. We want another one. I think when you win the American League East, one part of it is, obviously, you get home-field advantage. No. 2, it's great to say you won the American League East. In baseball, it's one of the more difficult divisions in all of sports to say you won.
"... At the end of the season, to be able to raise that [banner] is very significant to the organization, too. So we want to win it for a lot of different reasons. We're not looking through the rearview mirror, we're looking through the windshield. We want to win the division, too."