New York Yankees at Tampa Bay Rays series primer

They took care of business. Yes, an argument can be made that the Tampa Bay Rays could have won at least eight games instead of six on their most recent road trip, but the fact remains: They earned a winning record in their trek from Oakland to Chicago to Arlington, Texas. For the most part, they did what they had to do to keep their August schedule meaningful.

Will it be enough to extend their season past September? Time will show.

It has become more obvious by the week that the Rays need help to rally for the American League’s second wild-card spot. They’ve risen among the majors’ best since late June, but unless they receive assistance from the Detroit Tigers or Seattle Mariners or others, their rally will fall short. This is the life they created for themselves by falling to a season-worst 18 games below .500 after play June 10. They can reach .500 with a victory Friday against the New York Yankees, a notable feat, but so much of the past month and a half has been spent trying to dig themselves from their hole. Tampa Bay remains in a race against time.

Still, the Rays will have plenty of chances against AL East competition in the coming weeks. Ten of their next 11 series are against AL East opponents. They face a 10-game deficit to the streaking Baltimore Orioles in the division, but for now, the Rays should concern themselves with jumping the Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays in the AL wild-card chase.

Here’s a look at the upcoming Rays-Yankees series…

SCHEDULE AND PROBABLE PITCHER

WHO’S HOT

Jacoby Ellsbury (Yankees): He hit .250 (5 for 20) with one home run and one RBI in six games from Aug. 7-13. He had two multi-hit games in the stretch, in losses to the Cleveland Indians on Aug. 9 and Aug. 10. He has hit .276 with 10 home runs and 52 RBI this season.

Ben Zobrist (Rays): He hit .300 (9 for 30) with three RBI in seven games from Aug. 8-14. He had three multi-hit games in the span, including going 3 for 5 with a double in a victory over the Chicago Cubs on Aug. 8. He has hit .280 with nine home runs and 36 RBI this season.

WHO’S NOT

Martin Prado (Yankees): He hit .143 (3 for 21) with five strikeouts in six games from Aug. 7-13. He was held hitless three times in the span. He has hit .262 with six home runs and 44 RBI this season.

Sean Rodriguez (Rays): He hit .182 (4 for 22) with five strikeouts in five games from Aug. 8-14. He was held hitless once in the span. He has hit .220 with 11 home runs and 37 RBI this season.

STORYLINES

4: Consecutive balls that reliever Cesar Ramos threw to walk Adam Rosales on Tuesday, allowing the winning run to score in the Texas Rangers’ 3-2 victory in 14 innings at Globe Life Park. Ramos was Tampa Bay’s seventh pitcher of the night.

12: Strikeouts by right-hander Chris Archer in the Rays’ 10-1 victory over the Rangers on Wednesday at Globe Life Park. The figure represents a career-high total, surpassing the 11 he had against Texas on Sept. 8, 2012.

6-4: Record of the Rays’ most recent road trip against the Oakland Athletics, Cubs and Rangers. Tampa Bay earned a winning record on the trip with a 6-3 victory over the Rangers on Thursday at Globe Life Park.

QUOTE BOARD

"Just throw a strike there. Give us a chance." Manager Joe Maddon, after the Rays’ loss Tuesday, when referring to Ramos’ four-pitch walk that ended the game. The marathon lasted four hours, 49 minutes.

"It’s just one of those situations where you get in the zone and you black out. Your hard work and practice takes over." – Archer, after the Rays’ victory Wednesday. At one point in Tampa Bay’s rout, he struck out six consecutive batters.

"I’ve been growing a lot since the first part of the season. I found out a lot about myself." – Right-hander Jake Odorizzi, after he allowed just two runs and four hits in seven innings in the Rays’ victory Thursday. He improved to 9-9 with a 3.82 ERA and 146 strikeouts this season.

PROMOTIONS AND GIVEAWAYS

August 15 – Tampa Bay Times Ticket Tandem – Rays Cooler

August 17 – Mr. Happy Bobblehead

LOOKING AHEAD

August 19-21 – Tigers at Rays

You can follow Andrew Astleford on Twitter @aastleford or email him at aastleford@gmail.com.