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Rays believe hot streak can lead to contention

Smith released from hospital after being put on 10-day DL
August 28, 2018

ATLANTA -- The Rays haven't gone away, and it looks like they could have a say in the American League Wild Card race entering September.Sergio Romo played for the 2010 Giants, who went 18-8 in September to erase a four-game deficit to win the National League West. San Francisco went

ATLANTA -- The Rays haven't gone away, and it looks like they could have a say in the American League Wild Card race entering September.
Sergio Romo played for the 2010 Giants, who went 18-8 in September to erase a four-game deficit to win the National League West. San Francisco went on to become World Series champions. Romo was in his third Major League season, and the veteran reliever sees similarities between the 2018 Rays and that Giants club.
"I think what feels similar to that is that it's the youth doing it," Romo said. "When we made some turnarounds over there, we had some great leaders, some great veterans that contributed a lot. But I was more blown away by all of us young guys, that we were able to compete at this level and have that kind of output. … I think [with the Rays], it's the youth, it's the confidence. We are somewhat of a band of misfits. I think it's kind of cool."
Given where the Rays are, trailing the Athletics by 8 1/2 games for the second AL Wild Card spot entering Tuesday, Matt Duffy believes not peeking at the standings is the route the team needs to take.
"Personally, I think that's best," Duffy said. "There's definitely a lot to play for in this room, standings-wise, and for jobs [for next season]."
Kevin Kiermaier noted that the Rays "don't really live or die with what other people do."
"We have to handle our business each and every day," Kiermaier said. "We know Oakland is on a crazy stretch. New York is still playing really well. Seattle, they're right in it, as well. We kind of keep an eye on what they're doing out west. But at the same time, all we can do each and every day is come to the field, try to win, play the way we have been the last couple of weeks. … Try not to get too caught up in what the other teams are doing.
"If we maintain [the way we've played], we'll be in good positon."
Rays manager Kevin Cash said he was not "too concerned with the standings" at this juncture.
"I'm more concerned with we're playing the Braves, and [then] we're playing the Indians," Cash said. "Two first-place clubs. We just got done playing the Red Sox. This is a very challenging part [of the schedule]. … We're going to have to play really good baseball to come up with a successful road trip. We're capable of it, and we have the right momentum. But I try not to look too far past that."
Mallex progressing
Mallex Smith has been released from the hospital and appears headed to a full recovery from the viral infection that put him on the 10-day disabled list.
"Mallex, much better," Cash said. "He was out at [Tropicana Field] today, running around with [athletic trainer Paul] Harker. I think he was running some pass routes with the football. So that's a big step in the right direction."
Cash said it was "fairly reasonable" to project Smith getting back into action with the team by the time the next homestand begins on Sept. 7 with a three-game series against the Orioles.
"We're not going to put a timetable on it, just because we don't know how he's going to respond day to day," Cash said. "But we'd love to get him in some rehab games and put it real close to that time where he's able to come off."
Smith is enjoying a breakout season in the Rays' outfield. The speedy outfielder is hitting .307 with two home runs, 31 RBIs, and has 27 stolen bases. He has thrived after getting moved to the leadoff spot on Aug. 5, hitting .385 in 16 games since taking over that role.

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005.