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Rays look to gain ground during 10-game road trip

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays took care of business on their way into the All-Star break, winning 14 of their last 17 games, but none of those wins came over teams in the American League East.

That's all about to change as the Rays begin a 10-game road trip to Toronto, Boston and New York, cities where their 2 1/2-game deficit to the Red Sox for the division lead could grow or shrink in a hurry.

"We feel like we're within striking distance," second baseman Ben Zobrist said. "Everybody's been chasing Boston all year. They're a good team, and we're a good team. It's going to be a battle for all of our division the rest of the way. Nobody's a slouch."

Tampa Bay is closer to Boston in the divisional race now than it has been at any point since May 31 but the first-half numbers suggest this road trip could spell trouble.

The Rays were one of two teams, the other being the Blue Jays, to post a losing record within the division before the All-Star break. They were 20-24 against AL East opponents. The Red Sox did the most damage against their division rivals, going 23-15.

Manager Joe Maddon refused to look past Friday's game against Toronto, but outfielder Wil Myers, who made his Major League debut at Yankee Stadium on June 19, said the team's focus would be on winning each series.

"Could we go 10-0? Sure." Myers said. "Is it likely? Probably not, but we want to try to win every series we play, and if we win every series, we're going to have a pretty good record. That's our goal."

The last series the Rays lost? To the Red Sox at Fenway Park in mid-June.

Sam Strong is an associate reporter for
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