ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays have been repeating their motto of "162 strong" quite a bit lately, a reminder that the season isn't over until the final game is in the books, something they proved on their way to last year's dramatic comeback in Game 162.
But since the Rays can only reach the playoffs by sweeping the Orioles, hoping the A's are swept by the Rangers and winning a tiebreaker against Oakland on Thursday for the second Wild Card spot, manager Joe Maddon unveiled a new slogan Monday afternoon: "163 strongest."
"We plan on playing for something on Wednesday night," Maddon said. "We've got a 757 lined up. We're ready to go. Flying to Oakland."
Even if the Rays win each of their next three games, their playoff fate is out of their hands. The Rays could beat the Orioles on Monday night, but they could be eliminated from playoff contention if the A's beat the Rangers. That's the way the final three days of the regular season will work for Tampa Bay, but Maddon remains characteristically optimistic.
"It's kind of straight up right now," Maddon said. "We're relying on Texas to go out there and play really well. While we're relying on that, we have to take care of our own business. If we trip at all, then it's over with."
Maddon has stuck to his plan throughout the Rays' recent winning streak, relaxing the players' workload -- once again, they didn't take batting practice Monday -- while managing much more aggressively, especially early on in games.
"We have to go out and play our game. Baltimore's got a lot to play for, too, which is great. I love what's going on," Maddon said. "I love what they've done. I love what Oakland's done. I love what we've done, coming back like we have. Winning 10 out of 11 games right now is pretty impressive stuff, especially this time of the year. I kind of like how our guys have handled the moment once again."
Now, the Rays just have to hope the Rangers can handle the moment for them, too.
"I don't think I've ever been more of a Texas Rangers fan than right now," starter James Shields said. "They beat us twice in the playoffs the last couple years, and now I'm rooting for them."