When asked if Maddon had any reason to be sweating at this point, he replied, "I don't think so. No more than I'm sweating it.
"Given where we are on the scale, it's not a day-to-day thing with us," he added. "We feel pretty good about the way things are headed -- most important, the way the players have responded. You can see the enthusiasm they still have, even given their place in the standings, and that speaks volumes to Joe and his staff.
"Depending on where we are in the organization on the timeline, wins and losses are the ultimate barometer. But it wasn't the ultimate barometer when Joe started this. While it's still paramount to what we're trying to do, it's about the preparation for success that we expect to happen in the near future."
No patsies: Talk about who will win the American League East rules the airwaves these days, and on more than one occasion, the experts have checked off contending teams' games against the Rays as wins.
Maddon doesn't pay attention to what the media writes or says, but he does know what it's like to play a young and hungry team -- one that is not in contention -- when your own is in the middle of a pennant race and needs to win. He experienced such a feeling as the bench coach for the Angels when they fought to win a pennant, and he knows it's tough.
"We used to hate that in Anaheim, actually," said Maddon. "We're coming off [winning] six out of seven, and it could be seven out of seven very easily. If you're really watching us, we're playing a better game. The best way I can describe it is, we're playing a better game. We're making fewer errors, we're making better pitches, we're getting better situational at-bats, we're just doing smarter baseball things recently."
Maddon called the Rays' recent play a "small sampling."
"But it's a beginning," he said. "It's what it's supposed to look like. I like the way our guys are mentally. And I want to see us push through this next month playing against the most difficult schedule in baseball from a percentage-point basis. I want to see us push through this in a positive way. ... I want to see us play the game right on a nightly basis against teams that have a chance to go to the World Series. That's what I'm looking for."
Popping on all cylinders: Since losing, 12-2, to the Athletics at Tropicana Field a week ago, the Rays have scored 65 runs in seven games (9.3 per game) while batting .326 (87-for-267) with 35 extra-base hits. Over that same period, the Rays have hit .402 (35-for-87) with runners in scoring position. Their 633 runs are the third most in club history after 134 games.
In addition, the Rays have pitched to a 4.65 ERA in August, which ranks 16th in the Major Leagues, including a 4.33 ERA by the bullpen. To put that ERA in proper perspective, the staff had a 6.35 ERA in July.
Defensively, the Rays rank 28th in the Major Leagues for the season, but they have made just 10 errors in August; only four teams have made fewer in the Major Leagues this month.
Up next: The Rays will play the Yankees in the second game of a three-game series at Yankee Stadium on Saturday at 1:05 p.m. ET. Right-hander Edwin Jackson (4-12, 5.51 ERA) will start for the Rays, opposed by right-hander Ian Kennedy, who will be making his Major League debut.