Rays win, but AL East title celebration is on hold
BALTIMORE (AP)—The Tampa Bay Rays spent the night running around the bases and keeping their eyes fixed on the scoreboard.
Tampa Bay beat the Baltimore Orioles 11-6 Wednesday, but Boston’s win over Cleveland means the Rays will have to wait at least another day to celebrate their first AL East title and pop open the 200 bottles of champagne waiting in the visitors clubhouse.
One more win by Tampa Bay or a loss by Boston will provide the Rays their first division crown.
“We weren’t really talking about it, but you could definitely tell the guys were looking at the scoreboard and trying to see what was going on,” Tampa Bay center fielder B.J. Upton said. “It didn’t happen tonight, but the only thing we can do is go out and try and win a ballgame tomorrow.”
The champagne was packed up to be sent to Detroit, where the Rays open a four-game series Thursday afternoon.
“It’s hard to be disappointed any time you get a win,” starter Edwin Jackson said. “We just have to keep on trucking in this next series against Detroit.”
The night began miserably for the Rays. Tampa Bay trailed 5-0 in the first inning, about the same time Boston took a 4-0 lead over the Indians. But after Cleveland came back to tie it and the Rays overtook the woeful Orioles, it appeared that Tampa Bay was destined to salute the most successful season in franchise history with a bubbly toast.
But the scoreboard told them otherwise: Boston 5, Cleveland 4. Final.
“It was right in front of my face,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
Akinori Iwamura had two hits and three RBIs for the Rays, who completed a four-game sweep. It was the major league-leading ninth time this season the Orioles blew a four-run lead, most in the majors, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
“The disappointing thing is, it’s not the first time I’ve seen it,” Orioles manager Dave Trembley said.
Baltimore has lost nine straight and 28 of 34. The Orioles went 3-15 against Tampa Bay this season, losing the last 12.
Jackson (13-11) gave up six runs and 10 hits in 5 1-3 innings. Trever Miller pitched 2 1-3 innings of one-hit relief to earn his second save.
“So many good things. A lot of people contributed to the win tonight up and down the board,” Maddon said. “Tough beginning, wonderful ending, and that was attributable to our pitching.”
Down 6-0, the Rays rebounded with a five-run fourth. After Gabe Gross drew a bases-loaded walk and Eric Hinske hit an RBI single, two runs scored when Jason Bartlett’s comebacker bounced off pitcher Radhames Liz, who threw wildly to the plate. Iwamura followed with a run-scoring grounder.
The Rays added four runs in the eighth. Randor Bierd issued two straight bases-loaded walks before Dioner Navarro hit a two-run single. In the midst of that inning, however, the scoreboard flashed the final from Boston.
The first six Orioles to face Jackson got hits in a five-run first inning. Three singles loaded the bases for Aubrey Huff, who picked up his 108th RBI with a single. Oscar Salazar followed with a run-scoring single before Luke Scott drove in three runs with a double to left-center.
Scott was out at third trying for a triple, blunting Baltimore’s most productive first inning since a seven-run outburst May 20 at Yankee Stadium.
Undaunted, Tampa Bay closed the game with an 11-0 run.
“Our guys really felt they were fine. I know the game started badly, but the guys in our dugout were good,” Maddon said. “I truly thought they had a chance to come back and do that. We’re just at that point. We have to believe, and I know our guys do.”
Closer Troy Percival returned to the Rays after receiving treatment on his back in Tampa Bay. But it’s uncertain if he’s healthy enough to pitch. “I think I’ll be fine. But it’s up to them what they want to do that gives them the best opportunity to win,” Percival said. … Sidelined since Aug. 29 with a sore shoulder, Orioles RHP Jeremy Guthrie threw a simulated game Wednesday and will pitch in Sunday’s finale. … Baltimore reliever Jim Miller has soreness under his right armpit and is likely done for the year.