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Maddon even keel in face of Game 7

Maddon even keel before Game 7

ST. PETERSBURG -- Joe Maddon met with reporters prior to Sunday night's Game 7 of the American League Championship Series, and the manager of the Rays appeared extremely loose.

Despite the fact the Rays are facing their first elimination game of the season, Maddon is not doing anything differently in the way of motivation, rather he's going with business as usual. He's talked to different players about all different things, but he did not address his team as a whole.

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"At this particular juncture for me, I'm just sticking to the overall philosophy of what we've been doing," Maddon said. "For me, it's the right way of doing things. I don't think any kind of speech from me is going to make any difference in tonight's game. I believe that. I believe us coming together and staying together and keep doing the things we've been doing all year is going to get us to win this game tonight. It's not going to come through words. I think sometimes that's misinterpreted."

The Rays held a 3-1 advantage in the ALCS before the Red Sox won Games 5 and 6 to draw even. Winning three games in a row is not a strange thing for the defending World Series champions. Boston won at least three straight games 15 times during the regular season. The Sox had one winning streak of seven games, two streaks of five, three streaks of four and nine streaks of three. In addition, the Red Sox have won nine straight ALCS elimination games, and they are the only team in baseball history to reverse an 0-3 postseason deficit.

Based on being the reigning world champions and having achieved the improbable in the past has fueled the Red Sox's confidence, as well as shaping an overwhelming media sentiment that the Rays have little chance of winning Game 7. In deference to Boston's confidence, Maddon feels Tampa Bay will draw confidence from a 2008 track record in which the club has answered every challenge and come away successful. Maddon believes that confidence will help the Rays in Game 7.

"I think our guys feel very confident tonight," Maddon said. "They're good and we're good. And obviously, the winner continues and the loser goes home. I don't want us to approach the day any differently. I really don't. I don't see why you should. And I think that's the best avenue to come out on the winning end tonight. It's been hard fought all year with these guys. We've got some great moments, and hopefully we're going to get it done in a positive way."

Sunday night's game will be the 25th played between the teams this season, with the Rays holding a 13-11 advantage. In the process of compiling that record, Maddon believes a rivalry with the Red Sox has been established.

"The word, 'rivalry,' is sometimes tossed out way too loosely," Maddon said. "In the past, the rivalry has been built on the fact there have been altercations between the groups, and that's totally wrong. That just means the two teams have been fighting. But now you've got two teams ... I know they consider us a peer at this point. I know the respect they have for us has grown dramatically. And that's how you become a rivalry. You don't become a rivalry because you want to fight somebody. That's adversarial."

Maddon seemed to be smelling the roses in relation to appreciating the significance of managing a Game 7.

"I'm really looking forward to it," Maddon said. "Game 7 of anything is absolutely the most fun it could possibly be. When you're a kid growing up, you're always playing Game 7, so here it is.

"To be one game away from the World Series, let's go back to the first day of Spring Training. And if I had told you guys we were going to be one game away from going to the World Series, all of you would have laughed. Absolutely, a good belly laugh. I'm very proud of where our group is at today, and I could understand why you would have belly laughed back then. But nobody is belly laughing right now. And I could not be more proud of this group, and I have a strong conviction and belief that we're going to get it done tonight."

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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