ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) - Evan Longoria's flair for the dramatic onthe final night of the season ended Baltimore's bid to force a one-gametiebreaker for the AL East title.
Instead, the Orioles were leftto begin their first playoff appearance in 15 years on the road againsttwo-time defending league champion Texas.
Longoria homered threetimes and the Tampa Bay Rays shut down the Orioles 4-1 Wednesday nightat Tropicana Field, where Longoria also ended last season with a bang.
Baltimorebegan the day one game behind the New York Yankees in the division. TheOrioles needed a win, plus a loss by the Yankees to Boston, to pulleven.
New York cruised to a 14-2 rout of the Red Sox and finishedtwo games ahead of the Orioles, earning its 13th division crown in 17years. The Yankees had a 10-game lead on July 18 but Baltimore caught upSept. 4 and the teams were tied 10 times in September.
"We knewit was a long shot, but we ran into some really good pitching," Oriolesmanager Buck Showalter said. "I've got to tip my hat to them, and whatis really kind of amazing is that you look over there with what they'vebeen able to do this year, win 90 games, and that tells you what a fineline there is in all those extra-inning games and one-run losses, and wecould be in the same position they are."
The loss sent theOrioles to Texas, where they'll play the Rangers on Friday night, withthe winner advancing to the best-of-five division series against the NewYork 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 doeverything we can to beat Texas and get back home."
Longoriafinished the season in dramatic fashion for the second straight year,hitting solo shots off Chris Tillman in the first and fourth innings andadding another solo drive off Jake Arrieta in the sixth.
With achance to tie the major league record of four homers in a game, thethree-time All-Star who missed 85 games this year with a strained lefthamstring 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'ssecond career three-homer game came a year after he hit two of them ofthe final night of last season, including a 12th-inning, game-endingshot that clinched a postseason berth. The area beyond a short wall inthe left-field corner where the biggest homer in franchise historylanded is now called 162 Landing.
"I just think it highlights howwell we play in games 162," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "It was a verydramatic game, the way it all unfolded. I just like the idea that weplayed the last game of the season with that kind of effort andintensity."
Ryan Roberts also homered for the Rays in the fourth against Tillman (9-3).
JeremyHellickson (10-11) allowed one hit - Adam Jones' fourth-inning single -in 5 1-3 innings. Jake McGee, Wade Davis, Joel Peralta and FernandoRodney teamed up to hold the Orioles to two hits - J.J. Hardy's doubleand Matt Wieters' single, both in the ninth inning - the rest of theway.
Jones ruined Tampa Bay's shot at a 16th shutout with asacrifice fly off Peralta. After Wieters singled, Rodney was summoned toget the final out for his 48th save in 50 opportunities.
Davis,who tied an Orioles record when he homered for the sixth straight gamein a 1-0 win over Tampa Bay on Tuesday night, went 0 for 4 with threestrikeouts.
Baltimore had five hits in the final two games of theregular season, but Jones is confident the offense will bounce back forthe 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."
Longoriahas homered in five of his last seven plate appearances in the finalgame of the season. In four career Game 162s, he is 8 for 15 with sixhomers and nine RBIs.
"Sometimes you've got to give credit wherecredit is due. He put some good swings on some pitches, but I shouldhave been better," Tillman said. "I knew what I needed to do. I justdidn't get it done."
Longoria is 6 for 12 with three homersagainst Tillman, who lasted five innings and allowed three runs on fourhits in his first loss since Kansas City beat him on Aug. 11. Theright-hander who had gone 3-0 with a 1.20 ERA over his previous fivestarts also allowed three homers in that game, matching his career high.
TheRays (90-72) won 12 of 14 down the stretch, remaining in contention forthe second AL wild card until the 160th game and finished with at least90 wins for the third straight season.
Hellickson allowed threebaserunners, two of them in the fourth inning when Jones singled toright-center after Davis struck out on a wild pitch that allowed him toreach first. The 2011 AL Rookie of the Year walked Manny Machado leadingoff 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 JoeMaddon and the Rays. They played 162," Jones said. "Their players wentout 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 prettycool thing," Showalter said. Jones is the first Baltimore player toaccomplish the feat since Miguel Tejada in 2006. ... Orioles RHP SteveJohnson (sore left knee) said he felt great after throwing off a bullpenmound. ... 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. Thecrowd of 17,909 gave him a standing ovation when he was removed for apinch-runner in the eighth inning.