Rays feel they'll turn corner after tough stretch

Despite 2-7 homestand, Tampa Bay still in Wild Card race

Rays feel they'll turn corner after tough stretch

ST. PETERSBURG -- Sunday afternoon brought more bad news for the Rays, when they lost to the Indians, 4-3, at Tropicana Field, completing a tough nine-game homestand on a sour note.

"Maybe it's a good thing we're getting out of here for four days and heading to Toronto," Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said.

The Rays lost their third consecutive game, which translated to three lost series and a 2-7 record on the homestand. In addition, they fell below .500 for the first time since the end of play on June 7.

On July 18, the Rays were a season-high seven games over .500 (51-44) and two games behind the American League East-leading Red Sox. But since then, they have compiled an 8-16 mark.

"We've found out we've got to play better," Cash said of the team's recent stretch. "We were hoping to find out a little bit more, but we don't have the time to sit and dwell on it."

Despite their recent woes, the Rays remain in the AL Wild Card hunt, which is filled with teams fighting to remain relevant.

"We have to move past [our recent funk] quickly," Cash said. "Because every game is kind of pivotal-swing games. And we've got to take advantage of going and playing good baseball. ... We needed to play better over that stretch. We did not. It doesn't burn us or kill us, but we definitely have to make up for it now.

"... You look at what these teams have done that have either crept back into this division race or Wild Card race. They got hot. And they got hot for five or six games, seven games. We are capable of getting hot. We just haven't done it yet."

Now the Rays head to Toronto, where they are 2-3 on the season. They are 6-6 vs. the Blue Jays overall.

"We've had some good ballgames up in Toronto," Cash said. "We always seem to play them pretty tough. That's what we're looking for, because there's no doubt we've put ourselves a little behind the eight ball. We have to turn it around. A couple of wins will go a long way."

Steven Souza Jr. took solace in the fact the Rays have not been playing their best baseball recently.

"If we would have played our best baseball and lost every game, I would have told you it was going to be a tough stretch ahead," Souza said. "We played probably our worst baseball down the stretch, and we were in almost every single game we played. It's going to turn the corner -- we believe it's going to turn the corner. There's still a lot of time left; we're going to be all right."

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.