Rays hope experience pays off down the stretch

Rays hope experience pays off down the stretch

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Rays are hoping their current four-game winning streak is a sign of things to come for a team that once again is right in the middle of pennant race.

Prior to Saturday's game, the Rays were 6 1/2 games behind the Yankees in the American League East standings and half a game behind Baltimore and Detroit in the Wild Card race.

Being right in the middle of a pennant race is nothing new to Tampa Bay, which has had some playoff success in recent years. That fact could give it an advantage when competing with some less-experienced teams.

"I want to believe it does help. I think once you've been there like we have, you expect to be back there, you expect to figure out a way to make it all happen, make it all work. We really play our best ball this time of year, I really think it can continue," manager Joe Maddon said.

Although the Wild Card race might look more realistic for the Rays right now, starting pitcher James Shields said the top priority is not the Wild Card, but trying to catch the Yankees, who are alone in first place.

"We will look at the Wild Card in September. Right now, our goal is to catch up to the Yankees," Shields said. "They are still well within our grasp. As long as we keep playing good baseball and keep winning series, we are going to creep up on them."