Rays Will Be Tested On Road

Joe Maddon

The Rays have won a major league-best 40 games at home, but the key to their season will be taking their act on the road. Starting Thursday in Kansas City, the Rays play 37 of their final 62 games on the road, and that could be a problem.

The Rays have won a major league-best 40 games at home, but the key to their season will be taking their act on the road. Starting Thursday in Kansas City, the Rays play 37 of their final 62 games on the road, and that could be a problem.

The Rays' differential between their home and road records -- 40-16 compared to 19-25 -- is the third largest in the majors.

The biggest difference is the extra two runs a game their pitchers seem to allow. The same staff that has a major league-best 2.93 home ERA ranks in the bottom third with a 4.93 road ERA.

Manager Joe Maddon said the difference is more mental than anything, and he addressed it during this post-All-Star-break team meeting.

"The one thing I did talk about more than anything is composure -- when things get a little bit hot just maintaining your level of thought," he said. "It's all about what you think, and how you think. To me it's not because they're any more skillful here or less skillful there, it's how you approach the day, it's how you handle difficult moments when you're away from a comfortable environment. So it comes down to what you think, and that's composure."

RAYS 4, A'S 3: Jonny Gomes and Ben Zobrist hit homers and James Shields pitched into the ninth as the Rays completed a winning homestand to start the second half. The Rays now head out for a week-long road trip.

Notes, Quotes:

--SS Ben Zobrist knocked in the Rays' two biggest runs Wednesday, but his reward was a demotion to Class AAA Durham. The Rays will activate SS Jason Bartlett from the disabled list for Thursday's game in Kansas City. "That's just how the game works. Fortunately he did what he did, and then he goes back," manager Joe Maddon said. "He understands what's going on. I wanted him to understand how much we recognize what he's done for us here and that he's definitely going to be back."

A versatile utility player who can play multiple positions, Zobrist has seen the majority of innings at shortstop for Tampa Bay in the absence of Bartlett, who was activated and took his spot on the 25-man roster. He delivered some key homers while he was up in the majors, but hit only .230/.288/.486 in 74 at-bats since getting promoted from Durham.

--SS Jason Bartlett will be welcomed back to the lineup, as the Rays went 7-9 without him anchoring the middle of their infield, as well as providing some support against left-handed pitchers. Bartlett, who will be activated Thursday, said his sprained right knee is healed enough that he can play every day.

--RHP Troy Percival picked up his 344th career save, three behind Randy Myers for eighth place on the all-time list.

--RHP James Shields moved into third place on the Rays' all-time wins list with 27, trailing LHP Scott Kazmir (43) and Victor Zambrano (35).

--OF Jonny Gomes and INF Ben Zobrist were not only the first hitters to hit back-to-back homers off the A's this season; it was the first time they'd given up two homers in an inning.

--LHP David Price was solid in perhaps his final Double-A start for the Montgomery Biscuits on Wednesday nightt, scattering three runs on seven hits in six innings against the Tennessee Smokies. Price, the first overall pick in the 2007 draft, struck out six without walking a batter, allowing his first unearned run of the season. While he was effective, it was certainly not his most dominant outing so far. He even looked human for once, surrendering a two-run home run to Tennessee catcher and Chicago Cubs prospect Jake Fox, who has 12 homers and an OPS near .900. Fox's shot was only the fourth home run that Price has given up all year.

BY THE NUMBERS: 6 -- Saves in as many save opportunities by the Rays bullpen during the 14 games closer Troy Percival spent on the disabled list.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Definitely one of my prouder at-bats." -- Rookie 3B Evan Longoria, after hitting his first career grand slam off Toronto's Roy Halladay on Saturday.

MEDICAL WATCH:

SS Jason Bartlett (sprained right knee) went on the 15-day disabled list July 3. He will be activated July 24.

OF/DH Rocco Baldelli (leg fatigue) opened the season on the 60-day disabled list. He played on a rehab assignment with Class A Vero Beach from June 16-29, then was held out. He started a new rehab assignment with Class AA Montgomery on July 16.

RHP Chad Orvella (sore right shoulder) opened the season on the 15-day disabled list, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on April 13. He had season-ending surgery May 23 to repair an impingement.

Tyler Hissey contributed to this report.

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