With the exact nature of their postseason fate still undetermined, the Baltimore Orioles at least know they'll be participating.
The same can't be said for the Tampa Bay Rays - the hottest team in baseball.
One day after their chances for the AL East title took a major hit, the Orioles continue their push for the top wild-card spot Tuesday night against the recently eliminated Rays.
Baltimore (92-68) officially clinched a wild-card berth Sunday but entered this three-game series with its sights set on its first division crown since 1997. However, a 5-3 loss Monday coupled with the Yankees' 10-2 rout of Boston made that goal much more difficult as it fell one game behind New York with two to play.
"We didn't take care of our business," center fielder Adam Jones said. "We lost. When it comes to the Yankees, we can't control them. We can't control if they win or lose."
Matt Wieters hit a solo homer and Chris Davis continued his power surge with a two-run shot in the ninth, but the Orioles had their four-game win streak snapped. They dropped into a tie with Oakland for the top wild card, which would include home-field advantage for that one-game playoff.
Although the Rays (89-71) staved off elimination for a few hours with their 11th win in 12 games, they were ousted from contention when the Athletics beat Texas.
"Honestly, it just is what it is," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "We had opportunities early in the year to win more games, and we did not. But so did everybody else."
Maddon said he's thought about lineup changes for the final two games now that his team has been eliminated.
Third baseman Evan Longoria, still dealing with a partially torn left hamstring, may have played his final game of the year.
"I've thought about talking to certain guys that are banged up," he told the team's official website. "That's my only thought."
Davis has homered in a career-best five straight games, with six total and 12 RBIs during that span. He's 3 for 9 with one home run against scheduled starter James Shields.
The last player to homer in six consecutive games was Rays first baseman Carlos Pena from June 6-12, 2010, and the last Orioles player to do it was Reggie Jackson in 1976.
Miguel Gonzalez (8-4, 3.45 ERA) wouldn't mind if Davis matches Jackson as he tries to win three consecutive starts for the first time.
The rookie right-hander was sharp again Wednesday in a 12-2 victory over Toronto, allowing two runs and five hits over seven innings. He is 2-0 with a 2.79 ERA in his past three starts and has completed at least six innings in five straight outings.
After struggling in his first start this season against the Rays, Gonzalez has a 1.38 ERA in the past two meetings without recording a decision.
With the playoffs no longer an option, Shields (15-9, 3.62) can focus on matching his career high in wins set last season.
Despite walking four and hitting two batters, the right-hander was able to limit the damage against the White Sox on Thursday. He gave up two runs over 6 1-3 innings before the Rays scored a run in the ninth for a 3-2 win.
That was Shields' 10th quality start in his past 11 outings, with his team winning nine of those games.
He is, however, 1-1 with a 6.57 ERA in two starts this season against the Orioles, both at Baltimore.
Adam Jones is 13 for 36 (.351) with a homer and five doubles off Shields, while Jim Thome is 9 for 27 with one home run.
- Tampa Bay Rays
- Baltimore Orioles
- the Orioles
- James Shields