ST. PETERSBURG -- After Tuesday's 4-1 win over the Twins, Tampa Bay has won 10 of its last 11 games. Of those 11 games, nine were played against the Astros, White Sox, and Twins -- all teams with records under .500 (they also beat the Tigers twice).
Rays players said that just because a team has a record under .500, it still must be respected based on the fact that it's a Major League team.
"You can't take any Major League team lightly," Sam Fuld said. "And I think I've learned that the last couple of years. We've struggled against some of the teams, at least on paper, that we should have success against. This year, it's been nice. I don't know if it's learning from our experience this year or completely random. … It's easy to look on paper and say, 'They only have 38 wins.' But they're capable, and if you don't play well, they're capable of beating us any given night."
Joel Peralta said the Rays must treat every team as a contending team to "get the best out of us."
"The team you're playing each night is the one you need to play the hardest against," Peralta added. "When we play against these teams, if you put your guard down, they're going to get you."
Sean Rodriguez added: "The minute you don't [take a Major League team seriously], they'll beat you. No matter what their record is, they're still going out there every day to try and win, because that's how they earn their living."
Escobar brings certain flair to the field
ST. PETERSBURG -- When the Rays acquired Yunel Escobar at December's Winter Meetings, manager Joe Maddon talked about the "chrome" the team's new shortstop brought to the field.
In deference, Maddon said during the 2012 season that Ben Zobrist, who finished out the season as the everyday shortstop, had no chrome -- or flash. But Maddon allowed that Escobar was something special, so if chrome was part of his game, he wasn't about to ask him to change.
Much of Escobar's flash can be seen in his mannerisms on the field, such as wagging his bat like a Keystone Cop as he strolls to the plate, offering the safe sign when he crosses home plate after hitting a home run and acting like he's making a jump shot after making a play in the field.
Some might label Escobar a hot dog. But Escobar explained that his behavior is just a part of who he is.
"Since I've been playing as a little kid in Cuba, I haven't felt like I was showing somebody up," said Escobar, who went 0-for-3 in Tuesday's 4-1 win over the Twins, with bench coach Davey Martinez translating. "I've played for a couple of organizations that didn't like when I did that. Now I feel like I can be myself here. They don't downgrade my style of play as long as I'm catching the ball and hitting the ball. I'm comfortable and having a lot of fun."
In regard to the basketball gesture, Escobar explained that his teams have said they like when he does it, so after he makes a long throw, "I come up like I'm making a three."
"I've always liked basketball and played basketball in the winter time to stay loose," Escobar added. "I don't want to offend any other team. It's just something I've been accustomed to doing. It's the way I play, so I hope I'm not offending the other team, because I'm just out there having fun."
Escobar smiled when a visitor asked if he was saving up any gestures that Rays fans have not yet seen.
"I really don't know when I'm going to do something," Escobar said. "If something pops up that you like, let me know."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.