The Baltimore Orioles have done just about all they can to stay in contention for the AL East title.
Their efforts still may not be enough, but being home for the wild-card game isn't the worst consolation.
With a division title still a possibility, the Orioles hope to win their regular-season finale Wednesday night against the Tampa Bay Rays and at least secure home-field advantage for the wild-card game.
Baltimore continued its improbable season Tuesday with a 1-0 victory over the Rays to remain one game behind the East-leading Yankees. Although they managed only two hits and struck out 15 times against James Shields , the Orioles (93-68) got another homer from Chris Davis to win for the 12th time in 16 games.
A one-game tiebreaker for the division title Thursday at Camden Yards would be the result if the Orioles win and the Yankees lose to Boston. Wins by both New York and Baltimore would send the Orioles home for the wild-card playoff Friday against the loser of Wednesday's Texas-Oakland matchup.
"We're not supposed to be here. So just go out and have fun and see what happens," closer Jim Johnson said after recording his major league-best 51st save.
Davis joined Reggie Jackson (1976) as the only players in team history to homer in six straight games. He has seven home runs and 13 RBIs during that span.
"It kind of blows my mind to even be mentioned in the same breath as Reggie, but it's more about the win than anything else," Davis said. "I'm kind of glad to be the guy that's coming through in this situation, but as long as we get the win I don't care."
Baltimore hasn't done much offensively in this series, totaling four runs and eight hits while striking out 25 times. But it has hit three home runs, increasing its total to 17 in the last six games.
As part of the Orioles' unheralded rotation, Chris Tillman (9-2, 2.78 ERA) has played the role of ace over the past three months.
One of many reasons for the team's stunning turnaround from 93 losses in 2011, Tillman has already exceeded the seven games he won in 36 starts over his previous three major league seasons.
He was outstanding again Friday in a 9-1 win over Boston, yielding one hit - a bunt single to the game's first batter - and one unearned run over eight innings. The right-hander walked two, struck out four and retired the final 14 batters he faced.
"I feel like I'm confident in my delivery, and when you have confidence in that, things will play out well for you," Tillman said. "I just got to take it pitch-by-pitch and not get too worried about the next inning or the next game."
Tillman pitched six strong innings in a 6-2 win over the Rays (89-72) on July 26 after going 0-2 with a 5.06 ERA in his first five starts against them.
Tuesday's loss was only the Rays' second in 13 games overall but their sixth in the last seven meetings with the Orioles. Tampa Bay has scored 11 runs and batted .185 in those seven contests.
Jeremy Hellickson (9-11, 3.20) will try to help the Rays reach 90 wins for the third consecutive season when he faces Baltimore for the sixth time this year.
The right-hander is 1-2 in those matchups despite posting a 2.83 ERA. He tossed five scoreless innings at Camden Yards on Sept. 13 before Tampa Bay lost in 14 innings.
Hellickson has been unable to pitch deep into games lately, going four straight starts without completing six innings. He gave up three runs and a season high-tying nine hits over 5 2-3 frames during a 3-1 loss to the White Sox on Friday.
|September 29, 2012||Oliver Drake||60-Day DL||Right shoulder tendinitis|
|September 23, 2012||Randy Wolf||60-Day DL||Torn UCL, left elbow - out for season|
|September 11, 2012||Jason Hammel||Day-to-Day||Left game - right knee injury|
|September 09, 2012||Nick Markakis||Day-to-Day||Broken left thumb|
|September 02, 2012||Chris Tillman||Day-to-Day||Left game - stiff right elbow|
|August 22, 2012||Matt Wieters||Day-to-Day||Left game - right shoulder contusion|
|Tampa Bay Rays|
|September 25, 2012||Jose Molina||Day-to-Day||Strained right quad|
|September 11, 2012||Ryan Roberts||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained left forearm|
|September 08, 2012||Desmond Jennings||Day-to-Day||Lower back stiffness|
|September 07, 2012||David Price||Day-to-Day||Left shoulder soreness|
|August 31, 2012||Sean Rodriguez||15-Day DL||Fractured right hand|
|August 31, 2012||Sean Rodriguez||15-Day DL||Fractured right hand|
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- Evan Longoria 's flair for the dramatic on the final night of the season ended Baltimore's bid to force a one-game tiebreaker for the AL East title.
Instead, the Orioles were left to begin their first playoff appearance in 15 years on the road against two-time defending league champion Texas.
Longoria homered three times and the Tampa Bay Rays shut down the Orioles 4-1 Wednesday night at Tropicana Field, where Longoria also ended last season with a bang.
Baltimore began the day one game behind the New York Yankees in the division. The Orioles needed a win, plus a loss by the Yankees to Boston, to pull even.
New York cruised to a 14-2 rout of the Red Sox and finished two games ahead of the Orioles, earning its 13th division crown in 17 years. The Yankees had a 10-game lead on July 18 but Baltimore caught up Sept. 4 and the teams were tied 10 times in September.
"We knew it was a long shot, but we ran into some really good pitching," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "I've got to tip my hat to them, and what is really kind of amazing is that you look over there with what they've been able to do this year, win 90 games, and that tells you what a fine line there is in all those extra-inning games and one-run losses, and we could be in the same position they are."
The loss sent the Orioles to Texas, where they'll play the Rangers on Friday night, with the winner advancing to the best-of-five division series against the New York Yankees .
"We're going to take it one game at a time. Obviously if you lose, you're done," said Orioles slugger Chris Davis , who had homered in six straight games. "We're going to try to do everything we can to beat Texas and get back home."
Longoria finished the season in dramatic fashion for the second straight year, hitting solo shots off Chris Tillman in the first and fourth innings and adding another solo drive off Jake Arrieta in the sixth.
With a chance to tie the major league record of four homers in a game, the three-time All-Star who missed 85 games this year with a strained left hamstring grounded out in the eighth.
"It was cool," Longoria said. "That's about as fun a night as you can have in a ballgame."
Longoria's second career three-homer game came a year after he hit two of them of the final night of last season, including a 12th-inning, game-ending shot that clinched a postseason berth. The area beyond a short wall in the left-field corner where the biggest homer in franchise history landed is now called 162 Landing.
"I just think it highlights how well we play in games 162," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "It was a very dramatic game, the way it all unfolded. I just like the idea that we played the last game of the season with that kind of effort and intensity."
Ryan Roberts also homered for the Rays in the fourth against Tillman (9-3).
Jeremy Hellickson (10-11) allowed one hit - Adam Jones ' fourth-inning single - in 5 1-3 innings. Jake McGee , Wade Davis , Joel Peralta and Fernando Rodney teamed up to hold the Orioles to two hits - J.J. Hardy's double and Matt Wieters ' single, both in the ninth inning - the rest of the way.
Jones ruined Tampa Bay's shot at a 16th shutout with a sacrifice fly off Peralta. After Wieters singled, Rodney was summoned to get the final out for his 48th save in 50 opportunities.
Davis, who tied an Orioles record when he homered for the sixth straight game in a 1-0 win over Tampa Bay on Tuesday night, went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts.
Baltimore had five hits in the final two games of the regular season, but Jones is confident the offense will bounce back for the club's first postseason game since 1997.
"We ain't got no choice. You don't hit, you go home," Jones said. "It's no ifs, buts or maybes. Both teams know that."
Longoria has homered in five of his last seven plate appearances in the final game of the season. In four career Game 162s, he is 8 for 15 with six homers and nine RBIs.
"Sometimes you've got to give credit where credit is due. He put some good swings on some pitches, but I should have been better," Tillman said. "I knew what I needed to do. I just didn't get it done."
Longoria is 6 for 12 with three homers against Tillman, who lasted five innings and allowed three runs on four hits in his first loss since Kansas City beat him on Aug. 11. The right-hander who had gone 3-0 with a 1.20 ERA over his previous five starts also allowed three homers in that game, matching his career high.
The Rays (90-72) won 12 of 14 down the stretch, remaining in contention for the second AL wild card until the 160th game and finished with at least 90 wins for the third straight season.
Hellickson allowed three baserunners, two of them in the fourth inning when Jones singled to right-center after Davis struck out on a wild pitch that allowed him to reach first. The 2011 AL Rookie of the Year walked Manny Machado leading off the sixth and was replaced by McGee after getting the next batter, Nate McLouth , to pop out.
"The big tip of the cap goes to Joe Maddon and the Rays. They played 162," Jones said. "Their players went out every game to the last one and gave it all they've got."
NOTES: Jones played in every regular-season game this season. "It's a pretty cool thing," Showalter said. Jones is the first Baltimore player to accomplish the feat since Miguel Tejada in 2006. ... Orioles RHP Steve Johnson (sore left knee) said he felt great after throwing off a bullpen mound. ... Rays CF B.J. Upton, who can become a free agent this winter, singled in what might have been his last at-bat with Tampa Bay. The crowd of 17,909 gave him a standing ovation when he was removed for a pinch-runner in the eighth inning.