ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays returned to Tropicana Field for the first time this month Tuesday and will play 11 of their next 14 games on their home turf.
These home-heavy two weeks could not come at a better time for a team that went 3-7 on its recent West Coast road trip.
"It's always great to be home," manager Joe Maddon said. "We had been a better West Coast team in the last couple years. We're not comfortable out there. It happens. Those two trips have hurt us a little bit, but we're home. We've played pretty well in this building."
After going 0-5 on a West Coast trip in August, the Rays rebounded by winning five of their next nine home games.
"It's always good to be home," third baseman Evan Longoria said. "I anticipate our fans will be out in full effect today. I think they're just as excited as we are to be home and in the middle of things in the middle of September. This is the time of year you want to be playing meaningful games. It will be a good experience for all of us."
Tampa Bay is 44-26 at home compared to 34-38 on the road. The Rays' home record (295-108) since 2008 is the second-best mark in Major League Baseball.
Maddon not leaning on history as motivation
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays entered Tuesday night's game vs. the Red Sox facing 20 games in the next 20 days to finish the season. That scenario prompted reporters to ask manager Joe Maddon to revisit history. Specifically, how did he think his team's past experience might help them down the stretch this season.
At this same juncture in 2011, the Rays were 6 1/2 games behind Boston for the American League Wild Card and they went 13-7 the rest of the way to win the Wild Card in dramatic fashion on the season's final day.
Maddon immediately downplayed any significance that can be drawn from the team's past success.
"There's a lot of new guys, so a lot of guys who actually lived that moment are not here," Maddon said. "And I'm not one to always talk about the past and try to conjure up those kinds of comparisons. And, again, it's a new group of guys.
I just want to focus on tonight's game. Price vs. Buchholz. Once you start looking at the larger, clumpy things, it can get away from you.- Joe Maddon (@RaysJoeMaddon) September 10, 2013
"They've not really felt that yet. My biggest concern and my main thought is to keep those who have not been in that moment to understand what it's like and to be able to function. You have to function well in these moments. So that's what I'm looking for among our group."
Maddon allowed that there is not a lot he can do as the manager to help make his team relax and perform up to their capabilities.
"The only thing I can do is try and set an example, visually, of how I am," Maddon said. "Because I really don't like to verbalize that."
Maddon firmly believes that doing less is a better approach at this point of the season, particularly when it comes to perusing scouting reports, doing video work or saying anything.
"The less everything right now is so much more than more," Maddon said. "There's not much more else to talk about. There's no more technique to be refined. It's pretty much about competing against the other side.
"It's pretty much wanting to win more than the other guy. That's what it comes down to -- and really enjoying the moment and staying in the moment. I really refrain from grandiose speeches to anybody. I might talk to a guy, a little jab in and out thing, rather than trying to be brilliant. First of all, I'm not, so why even try. I really think you can confuse people right now."
Crain pleased with second bullpen session
ST. PETERSBURG -- Reliever Jesse Crain, who has been sidelined with a strained right shoulder since being acquired by the Rays before the non-waiver Trade Deadline in July, threw his second bullpen session Tuesday.
Crain upped his pitch count to 36 and mixed in some breaking balls as opposed to the 25 fastballs he threw Saturday.
"I'm still going in the right direction," Crain said. "Again, like last time, we'll see how I feel tomorrow and go from there and decide what the next step is. But very positive."
The next step for Crain has not been determined. Manager Joe Maddon said the training staff's plan for Crain from the beginning has been to throw three bullpen sessions, but Crain did not rule out the possibility of facing hitters.
Crain is encouraged by the progress he has seen in the past week after the rehab pace slowed significantly because of a setback. He hopes to not only get on the field for the Rays, but get back to his All-Star form. Crain was named an American League All-Star, but he did not play in the game because of the injury. He posted a 0.74 ERA in 38 appearances for the White Sox.
"It's healing," Crain said. "When you're able to push it -- you feel it a little bit, but you're able to push it -- and it doesn't get worse, that's when you know you're on the way up. Before, when I'd push it, the next day it'd be sore and kind of went in the wrong direction. It's on the right track. Still getting stronger, and I'm getting excited about it."