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10/04/2012 12:04 AM EDT
Longoria hits 3 HRs, Rays drop O's to wild card
TAMPA BAY 4, BALTIMORE 1

By FRED GOODALL
AP Sports Writer

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- Evan Longoria's flair for the
dramatic on the final night of the season ended Baltimore's bid
to force a one-game tiebreaker for the AL East title.



Instead, the Orioles were left to begin their first playoff
appearance in 15 years on the road against two-time defending
league champion Texas.



Longoria homered three times and the Tampa Bay Rays shut down
the Orioles 4-1 Wednesday night at Tropicana Field, where
Longoria also ended last season with a bang.



Baltimore began the day one game behind the New York Yankees in
the division. The Orioles needed a win, plus a loss by the
Yankees to Boston, to pull even.



New York cruised to a 14-2 rout of the Red Sox and finished two
games ahead of the Orioles, earning its 13th division crown in
17 years. The Yankees had a 10-game lead on July 18 but
Baltimore caught up Sept. 4 and the teams were tied 10 times in
September.



"We knew it was a long shot, but we ran into some really good
pitching," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "I've got to tip
my hat to them, and what is really kind of amazing is that you
look over there with what they've been able to do this year, win
90 games, and that tells you what a fine line there is in all
those extra-inning games and one-run losses, and we could be in
the same position they are."



The loss sent the Orioles to Texas, where they'll play the
Rangers on Friday night, with the winner advancing to the
best-of-five division series against the New York Yankees.



"We're going to take it one game at a time. Obviously if you
lose, you're done," said Orioles slugger Chris Davis, who had
homered in six straight games. "We're going to try to do
everything we can to beat Texas and get back home."



Longoria finished the season in dramatic fashion for the second
straight year, hitting solo shots off Chris Tillman in the first
and fourth innings and adding another solo drive off Jake
Arrieta in the sixth.



With a chance to tie the major league record of four homers in a
game, the three-time All-Star who missed 85 games this year with
a strained left hamstring grounded out in the eighth.



"It was cool," Longoria said. "That's about as fun a night as
you can have in a ballgame."



Longoria's second career three-homer game came a year after he
hit two of them of the final night of last season, including a
12th-inning, game-ending shot that clinched a postseason berth.
The area beyond a short wall in the left-field corner where the
biggest homer in franchise history landed is now called 162
Landing.



"I just think it highlights how well we play in games 162," Rays
manager Joe Maddon said. "It was a very dramatic game, the way
it all unfolded. I just like the idea that we played the last
game of the season with that kind of effort and intensity."



Ryan Roberts also homered for the Rays in the fourth against
Tillman (9-3).



Jeremy Hellickson (10-11) allowed one hit - Adam Jones'
fourth-inning single - in 5 1-3 innings. Jake McGee, Wade Davis,
Joel Peralta and Fernando Rodney teamed up to hold the Orioles
to two hits - J.J. Hardy's double and Matt Wieters' single, both
in the ninth inning - the rest of the way.



Jones ruined Tampa Bay's shot at a 16th shutout with a sacrifice
fly off Peralta. After Wieters singled, Rodney was summoned to
get the final out for his 48th save in 50 opportunities.



Davis, who tied an Orioles record when he homered for the sixth
straight game in a 1-0 win over Tampa Bay on Tuesday night, went
0 for 4 with three strikeouts.



Baltimore had five hits in the final two games of the regular
season, but Jones is confident the offense will bounce back for
the club's first postseason game since 1997.



"We ain't got no choice. You don't hit, you go home," Jones
said. "It's no ifs, buts or maybes. Both teams know that."



Longoria has homered in five of his last seven plate appearances
in the final game of the season. In four career Game 162s, he is
8 for 15 with six homers and nine RBIs.



"Sometimes you've got to give credit where credit is due. He put
some good swings on some pitches, but I should have been
better," Tillman said. "I knew what I needed to do. I just
didn't get it done."



Longoria is 6 for 12 with three homers against Tillman, who
lasted five innings and allowed three runs on four hits in his
first loss since Kansas City beat him on Aug. 11. The
right-hander who had gone 3-0 with a 1.20 ERA over his previous
five starts also allowed three homers in that game, matching his
career high.



The Rays (90-72) won 12 of 14 down the stretch, remaining in
contention for the second AL wild card until the 160th game and
finished with at least 90 wins for the third straight season.



Hellickson allowed three baserunners, two of them in the fourth
inning when Jones singled to right-center after Davis struck out
on a wild pitch that allowed him to reach first. The 2011 AL
Rookie of the Year walked Manny Machado leading off the sixth
and was replaced by McGee after getting the next batter, Nate
McLouth, to pop out.



"The big tip of the cap goes to Joe Maddon and the Rays. They
played 162," Jones said. "Their players went out every game to
the last one and gave it all they've got."



NOTES: Jones played in every regular-season game this season.
"It's a pretty cool thing," Showalter said. Jones is the first
Baltimore player to accomplish the feat since Miguel Tejada in
2006. ... Orioles RHP Steve Johnson (sore left knee) said he
felt great after throwing off a bullpen mound. ... Rays CF B.J.
Upton, who can become a free agent this winter, singled in what
might have been his last at-bat with Tampa Bay. The crowd of
17,909 gave him a standing ovation when he was removed for a
pinch-runner in the eighth inning.

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