Originally posted on Fox Sports Florida
By ANDREW ASTLEFORD  |  Last updated 8/13/13
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Rays entered Tuesday night in a bit of a funk, but Yunel Escobar had a plan to lighten the mood. The shortstop walked to his stall before a game between the Rays and Seattle Mariners at Tropicana Field with a cardboard sign that read, "WE NEED TO WIN". Tampa Bay began a six-game homestand with a five-game losing streak following defeats at the Arizona Diamondbacks (two games) and Los Angeles Dodgers (three). The skid marked the team's longest since losing six consecutive games to begin the 2011 season. "He's always about winning," Rays manager Joe Maddon said of Escobar. "He'll run around the dugout prior to the game and mention that to everybody prior to every game. Great energy. This guy does want to win." The sign was in good fun, but it is another example of Escobar's impact on the Rays this season. After hitting .169 with two home runs and seven RBI in April, Escobar has become a major contributor for Tampa Bay. Entering Tuesday, he hit .256 with eight home runs and 47 RBI, and he became known for highlight-reel defensive plays. Escobar's loose, free demeanor has become popular within the clubhouse after he was traded from the Miami Marlins last December. Likely, the humor Tuesday was welcomed: The Rays landed in Tampa, Fla., at 5:15 a.m. Monday following a Sunday night finale in Los Angeles. The game Tuesday was their first after an off day. Despite the Rays' slide, the American League East lead remains in sight. They trailed the Boston Red Sox by three games entering Tuesday. As Escobar pointed out in a humorous way, winning again was their goal. "He's got one agenda," Maddon said. "He has been playing great. He has been playing really well. His batting average has climbed steadily. His defense has been outstanding. He does want to win." You can follow Andrew Astleford on Twitter @aastleford or email him at aastleford@gmail.com.
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