ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays feel they can still do something special this season, but that might depend on how they perform during a 10-game trip that begins tonight in Oakland.
The Rays are attempting to become the fourth team in major-league history to fall 18 games below .500 and return to .500. The Rays were last a .500 team in April when they were 10-10.
The trip opens with three games against the A’s, who hold the best record in baseball, followed by a three-game series against the Cubs and finally four games against the Rangers.
The Rays went 5-0 on their last trip, sweeping the Twins and Cardinals following the All-Star break.
“We’ve turned into a really good road team,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “We’re actually a better road team that we are a home team. We’ll take this show on the road and see what happens.”
The Rays are attempting to become the first team to rally from 18 games below .500 to reach the postseason. In 1914, the Boston Braves climbed from a 12-28 hole and went 82-31 the remainder of the season before sweeping the Philadelphia A’s in the World Series.
“We had a big road trip a couple of weeks ago when we went 9-2, so it’s one of those things where we’re staying motivated and coming hard every day and holding our heads held high,” OF Kevin Kiermaier said. “Hopefully we can keep the same thing going for this one and win each series. That’s what we’re trying to do, and stay within grasp of everything with this playoff race that everyone’s going for the last two months.”
The Rays have been two games shy of .500 three times since July 26.
Are the playoffs still within reach?
“No doubt,” Maddon said. “Absolutely. I really feel strongly about that.”
Cobb aims for sixth win in row
RHP Alex Cobb is on a roll.
And if the Rays are to get back to .500, they’ll need Cobb to continue at his current pace.
Cobb, who starts tonight in Oakland, has won five straight decisions, tying his career-high streak for the third time.
In his last start, a 5-1 win over the Brewers, Cobb had a season-high 12 strikeouts for this seventh win of the season.
“I feel comfortable with my mechanics right now,” Cobb said. “ Every time you’re going out, I would say 90 percent of the battle is against yourself.
“Obviously when there’s a really good hitting team like Oakland, you have to make sure you’re extra sharp and mentally go along with the game as long as you can and try not to make any dumb mistakes out there, repeat pitches to the same guy multiple times or whatever the case may be.”
With his leadoff double in the second, 1B James Loney extended his on-base streak to 22 consecutive games. ... 3B Evan Longoria had his first career sacrifice bunt in the fifth to move Ben Zobrist to third and Matt Joyce to second. Zobrist scored on Loney’s sacrifice fly. ... There was a 19-minute delay in the top of the third after lightning struck a nearby power substation, causing some lights to go out at Tropicana Field.