The Tampa Bay Rays failed to secure a playoff spot in their last game, but with David Price(notes) taking the mound, they have to like their chances to celebrate at home Tuesday night against the Baltimore Orioles.
Price (18-6, 2.84 ERA) looks to help Tampa Bay avoid a three-game losing streak after dropping Monday’s series opener 4-0 to Baltimore. The Rays’ magic number to clinch a playoff spot remained at one, while they maintained an AL East lead of one-half game over the New York Yankees, who lost to Toronto.
Either Tampa Bay’s next win or Boston’s next loss will put the Rays in the playoffs.
Although the Rays (93-63) have struggled to close things out, going 12-12 in September, Price is having an outstanding month to boost his chances for the AL Cy Young Award.
Tampa Bay has won all five of Price’s starts in September, during which he has a 2.06 ERA. He won his third straight decision Thursday, giving up three runs while striking out seven in six innings of a 10-3 victory over the Yankees.
Price sports a 2.11 ERA at home this season and ranks third in the AL in both wins and ERA, but manager Joe Maddon isn’t assuming anything for Tuesday.
“I’m not a chicken counter. You just go out and play the game and see what happens,” Maddon said. “I like the fact that David’s out there. We’ve just got to go out there and play a good game of baseball.”
The left-hander is 3-0 with a 2.59 ERA in four career starts against the Orioles, including a 9-1 win April 14 at Camden Yards in which he allowed one run and four hits in seven innings.
If Tampa Bay clinches, few might be present to witness it. Monday’s announced crowd was 12,446 - well below the already-paltry 23,047 the Rays are averaging at Tropicana Field.
“It’s a tough situation for us. A lot of the visiting teams come in and wonder where are all the fans. It’s a little bit embarrassing for us,” Longoria said. “Again, we’re one game away from clinching a postseason spot. We have enough guys in this room to celebrate with, but we’d love to celebrate with the fans, too. It’s just tough to see that.”
Longoria missed his fourth straight game Monday with a strained left quadriceps. Maddon said he most likely will sit out the remainder of the series.
The right-hander has won his last two starts and is 5-1 with a 2.29 ERA in his last nine. He gave up one run in six innings of a 9-1 victory at Boston last Tuesday.
Bergesen is 0-3 with a 9.00 ERA lifetime against the Rays, including two losses this season in which he allowed 13 runs over 8 1-3 innings.