ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Bad news was waiting for Joe Maddon in the morning.
The Tampa Bay Rays’ manager said he planned to hit the sack and sleep “like a baby” on Monday night, rather than stay up to see whether his team got the help it needed to remain in the playoff race.
No such luck.
Tampa Bay beat the Baltimore Orioles 5-3 for its 11th victory in 12 games, an impressive stretch that kept the Rays in the hunt for the second AL wild card — until Oakland beat Texas 4-3 later Monday night.
Baltimore already is assured of being in the playoffs for the first time in 15 years, but still has its sights on outlasting the Yankees for the AL East title. The Orioles fell a game out of first place behind New York when the Yankees beat Boston.
“We’ve played 12 playoff games and we’ve won 11 of them,” said Maddon, whose team has outscored opponents 80-31 during the surge. “I just love the way our guys are going about their business.”
Alex Cobb allowed two hits over seven innings, Ben Zobrist hit his 20th homer and Chris Giminez had a two-run double off Wei-Yin Chen as the Rays pulled away from a 1-all tie in the seventh.
Cobb (11-9) yielded a fourth-inning single to J.J. Hardy and an opposite-field solo homer to Matt Wieters that tied it in the seventh.
Chris Davis homered for the fifth straight game for Baltimore, a two-run shot off Kyle Farnsworth that trimmed Baltimore’s deficit to 5-3 in the ninth.
Fernando Rodney gave up singles to Adam Jones and Wieters to put the potential tying runs on base. The Rays closer struck out Jim Thome and Mark Reynolds before getting Endy Chavez to hit a grounder back to mound to end the game. It was Rodney’s 47th save in 49 opportunities.
“We didn’t take care of our business. We lost,” Jones said. “When it comes to the Yankees, we can’t control them. We can’t control if they win or lose.”
The Orioles arrived in St. Petersburg for the season-ending series later than expected Sunday night after their plane had to divert to Jacksonville because of a fire in the galley.
They clinched at least a wild-card berth when the Los Angeles Angels lost the second game of a doubleheader to the Texas Rangers late Sunday, and manager Buck Showalter, coaches and players celebrated by having a short meeting and toasting the accomplishment at the team hotel.
“We’ve clinched a spot, but we’ve got an opportunity to win the East. That’s big,” Jones said before the game. “You get to put up a banner at Camden Yards. It speaks something about the team. It means you finished ahead of the Yankees and Boston and Tampa Bay, everybody.”
Cobb retired 10 in a row before Hardy singled between shortstop and third base for Baltimore’s first hit. The 24-year-old right-hander walked Jim Thome with one out in the fifth and Nate McLouth with one out in the sixth. McLouth stole second, but was stranded when J.J. Hardy grounded to shortstop and Chris Davis took a called third strike.
Wieters’ career-high 23rd homer cleared the short wall in the left-field corner known as 162 Landing, the spot where Evan Longoria hit the 12th-inning homer that the sent the Rays to the playoffs on the final night of last season.
“It is frustrating when it’s out of your hands, but we put ourselves in that position. We could have held our own destiny,” Cobb said. “Even coming into the last road trip we had that chance, but we let a couple slip that we wish we could have had back. But we’re doing all we can now with what we have.”
While Maddon was hoping for another dramatic finish, the manager said he wouldn’t fret if the Rays fell short of earning their fourth playoff berth in five seasons.
“Honestly, it just is what it is. We had opportunities early in the year to win more games, and we did not. But so did everybody else,” he said.
“Everybody else is going to be bemoaning the same points if they don’t get there at this juncture. So for me, it’s about staying right here, keeping the blinders on. It’s about moving it forward, organizationally speaking.”
NOTES: Chen, who is 0-4 in seven starts since his last win Aug. 19, allowed four runs — three unearned — and six hits in 6 2-3 innings. … Zobrist joined B.J. Upton as the only Rays with at least 20 homers. Zobrist has driven in 21 runs in 28 games since the start of September. … Baltimore RHP Jason Hammel (sore right knee) threw five innings in the Florida instructional league and could be available to pitch for the Orioles late this week. … Orioles RF Nick Markakis (broken left thumb) will have surgically inserted pins removed in a week.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.