The Tampa Bay Rays waited 11 years to make the postseason so needing an extra game to clinch a division title doesn’t seem to be such a big deal.
The Rays try to wrap up first place in the AL East on Friday when they continue a four-game series against the last-place Detroit Tigers.
Tampa Bay (96-63) had its four-game winning streak snapped with a 7-5 loss to Detroit (72-86) in Thursday’s opener. Scott Kazmir allowed four runs in five innings, giving up two of his four home runs to Ramon Santiago.
The Rays still could have clinched the division with a loss by Boston, but the Red Sox beat Cleveland later Thursday as Tampa Bay’s magic number remained at one.
“It would have been great for us to clinch it and get it done with and look forward to the postseason,” Kazmir said. “But I just didn’t get the job done.”
Manager Joe Maddon said the team’s short turnaround for Thursday’s day game following Wednesday’s night game in Baltimore may have played a factor in the Rays’ effort. They had seven hits in the loss after scoring 27 runs in the four-game sweep of the Orioles.
“That was a tough scheduling situation—four games in three days and a short night last night,” Maddon said. “I’m proud of how much energy our guys showed today, but I’m looking forward to a good night’s sleep.”
The Rays can clinch the division with a win or a Boston loss on Friday. Tampa Bay won a major league-worst 66 games last season and never more than 70 games in its first 10 years of existence.
“Our goal at the beginning of this year was to win the American League East,” Maddon said. “We still want to do that, and we want home-field advantage, because we play so well at the Trop.”
Maddon hands the ball to Andy Sonnanstine (13-8, 4.27 ERA), who is 0-2 with a 3.82 ERA in his last six starts.
Sonnanstine pitched 6 2-3 innings against Minnesota on Sunday, allowing four runs—two earned—and seven hits in a 4-1 loss. He has received just two support runs in his last three starts.
“It’s tough,” he told the Rays’ official Web site, “but there’s nothing I can do about that.”
The right-hander pitched six innings against the Tigers on Aug. 2 in his only meeting against them, allowing two runs and seven hits to earn a 9-3 victory.
Detroit snapped a six-game losing streak with just its second win in 14 games. Six of the Tigers’ nine hits Thursday were for extra bases—five homers and a double—with Santiago going 3-for-4.
“My teammates were saying ‘Hey, it’s Sammy Sosa!’ but I kept telling them no,” said the shortstop, who was in a 2-for-19 (.105) slump. “It was fun, but I want to keep hitting line drives.”
The Tigers will hand the ball Friday to Justin Verlander (10-17, 4.87), who leads the AL in losses.
Verlander is 0-4 with a 7.92 ERA in his last five starts. He pitched four innings against Cleveland on Saturday, allowing four runs and five hits in a 6-3 loss.
The right-hander is 1-0 with a 4.76 ERA in three career starts against the Rays.