ARLINGTON, Texas — The Rays open a six-game homestand tonight against the Yankees to begin a key stretch during which they play 29 of their next 32 games against AL East teams. All but four of those games are against teams ahead of them in the standings.
“We’re still in our minds not out of this thing,” 3B Evan Longoria said. “You want to be playing teams that you’re chasing if you want to have a chance. If you win, then you’re one step closer to catching those teams. It’s no easy task, but I think the way that this team has been playing, the mindset going into the homestand and into this last quarter of games of the season, I really feel confident we’re going to go out there on a daily basis and put up a fight to win and continue to win until the last day of the season.”
The Rays, 22-22 against the AL East this season, have won seven of nine games against the division since June 28.
“That’s all you can ask for right now, being able to have some sort of say so in what’s going to take place in late September, being able to give your team a chance to be in the race as much as we can control,” said RHP Alex Cobb, who starts tonight.
Only 10 of the Rays’ remaining 41 games are against teams not ahead of them in either the AL East or wild-card standings — the Red Sox (seven games) and the White Sox (three).
“I like a lot of it. I think it’s good. It’s exciting,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “I hope the fans are as excited as we are, because we worked very hard to put ourselves back in this position. Now it’s up to us to take advantage.”
Jennings could return tonight
CF Desmond Jennings was not in the starting lineup Thursday for the second straight game because of a sore left shoulder suffered when he slammed into the wall during Tuesday’s game.
Jennings said he expects to play tonight.
“If he said that, then I would feel pretty good about it,” Maddon said. “It’s not awful. It’s not bad. He just needs another day to feel good about it.”
Welcome back, DP
LHP David Price is expected to face the Rays on Thursday afternoon during the finale of the three-game series against the Tigers at the Trop. In anticipation of Price’s return, Sun Sports added the game to its telecast schedule.
OF David DeJesus (left hand fracture) is scheduled to begin his minor-league rehab assignment Saturday with the Gulf Coast League Rays and continue it Monday at Class A Charlotte. ... Longoria left Wednesday’s 10-1 win because of the big lead and was the DH on Thursday because fly-ball pitcher RHP Jake Odorizzi started for the Rays. ... Maddon, a JFK conspiracy theorist, met Buell Frazier before Thursday’s game. Frazier drove Lee Harvey Oswald to work at the Texas School Book Depository on the morning of Nov. 22, 1963. Frazier was interrogated after President Kennedy’s assassination and at one point was ordered to sign a confession statement. Frazier visited Maddon for 35 minutes ... The Rays will have American Legion Week this weekend. There will be no batting practice before any of the three games with the Yankees, and the Rays will report late. The St. Petersburg American Legion Post 14 flag will be displayed in the clubhouse this weekend and Maddon will pick up the tab today at the Post 14 hall for beer and sausages during the Rays-Yankees game. ... Former Jefferson High baseball coach Pop Cuesta will throw out the first pitch before tonight’s game.