BALTIMORE -- After Wednesday night's loss, B.J. Upton told reporters that Thursday afternoon's game against the Orioles was a "must-win" game and that the Rays needed to win the weekend series at New York if "they want to get to where they want to be."
Rays manager Joe Maddon has never been a proponent of making any one game more important than another, so he was asked what he thought about Upton's comments.
"I like our players to express their opinions, always," Maddon said. "For me, every game's a must game. There aren't any 'Let's just mail this one in' games. For me, I think we learned that lesson last year. Regardless of how dire a moment may seem or how great a moment may seem, just keep playing."
Winning one-run games not in cards for Rays
BALTIMORE -- The Rays dropped their American League-leading 26th one-run game Thursday when the Orioles took a 3-2 win in 14 innings.
The Rays have been involved in 46 one-run games, which ranks second in the AL behind the Mariners, and they are 20-26 in those games.
Tampa Bay has lost 13 of its last 16 one-run games and is 8-22 in one-run games since May 28 after starting the season 12-4.
"It has not been good," manager Joe Maddon said before Thursday's game. "We have really be unable to get the necessary hit and we've had opportunities, the latter part of games and in extra innings against some better relief pitchers, we've had a hard time. That's just being straight up, that's what's happened.
"We've had guys on the bases. We've had guys at the plate. It's not just one or two guys, it's the entire group, we just have not been good at that play. But, that does not mean we can't still be good at that play. ... At some point, it switches or flips."
McGee feeling confident, seeing positive results
BALTIMORE -- Rays reliever Jake McGee looked overpowering in Wednesday night's game when he took over for Alex Cobb with two outs in the fifth innning.
McGee struck out Wilson Betemit to end the inning. He then returned to pitch the sixth and struck out the side.
"I knew I was going to feel good, my arm was going to feel good, but sometimes when you have four or five days off, your location isn't as good," said McGee, who had not pitched since Sept. 5 before Wednesday night's stint.
McGee is 5-2 with a 1.96 ERA in 59 games and has not allowed a run in 17 straight appearances dating back to July 18 against Cleveland.
"I'm just feeling good," McGee said. "My mind's in a good place. Just thinking about each pitch at a time instead of just throwing what the catcher puts down. I've been thinking about the pitch I'm going to throw next. I have more of a game plan."
McGee has never looked rattled when he's come in, but this season he has look particularly calm, which he attributed to feeling good about his stuff.
"Yeah, I think if I have the confidence where if I throw my fastball in the location where I want to, nobody can really hit it," McGee said.
McGee is a converted reliever after spending most of his time in the Minor Leagues as a starter.
"I think I've figured out a lot more [about being a reliever] from talking to guys," McGee said. "... I've learned from multiple guys and picked guys' brains."
Rays manager Joe Maddon said he is not afraid to use McGee in any situation during the game.
The Rays took a 77-65 record into Thursday afternoon's game. On the bright side, they were 78-64 at the same point last season, but they were seven games out of the American League Wild Card race. Entering Thursday's game, the Rays were three games out of the Wild Card.
David Price leads all Major League qualifiers in ERA (2.54) and Fernando Rodney leads all Major League relievers (minimum 50 appearances) in ERA (0.69). In the last 50 years, only twice has a team had pitchers lead in both: the 2006 Twins with Johan Santana and Denys Reyes, and the 1963 Dodgers with Sandy Koufax and Bob Miller.
Entering Thursday, B.J. Upton had hit four home runs in his last 13 at-bats and 12 in his last 30 games, the hottest stretch of his career. In 2008, he hit eight in a 12-game span, including seven in the first 10 games of the postseason. He has hit 60 of his 119 career home runs (including postseason) after Aug. 1.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.