Fi­nal series kicks off on an up note

Tampa Bay Times - - Rays Report - BY ROGER MOONEY Times Staff Writer

ST. PE­TERS­BURG — It’s that time of year when the card­board boxes are piled high in the cen­ter of the club­house as the Rays clean out their lock­ers. Soon, those boxes will be shipped to far­away cities and coun­tries as the play­ers scat­ter for the off­sea­son.

Two games re­main in the sea­son for the Rays and the Ori­oles.

Only one thing mat­ters now.

“Pride,” Rays man­ager Kevin Cash said be­fore Fri­day’s game.

The Rays won the first game of this sea­son-end­ing series be­tween the Amer­i­can League East ri­vals.

Their 7-0 vic­tory in front of an an­nounced 21,142 at Trop­i­cana Field clinched third place in the di­vi­sion, the high­est fin­ish for the Rays (78-82) since they were sec­ond and earned a wild-card spot in 2013.

“I wouldn’t ex­pect any­thing less,” first base­man Lo­gan Mor­ri­son said of the Rays’ ef­fort. “There’s a lot of pro­fes­sion­al­ism and pride in this room. We re­ally thought we had some­thing spe­cial here. For what­ever rea­son, it didn’t work out. It’s dis­ap­point­ing that we’re not in it but want to end it on a pos­i­tive note.”

The Ori­oles con­tin­ued to floun­der at the end, the loss be­ing their eighth in their past 10 games.

It was the sec­ond time in as many games the Rays scored at least seven. They scored nine Thurs­day in a win against the Yan­kees in New York.

“It’s nice to see the guys fin­ish­ing strong,” Cash said.

Evan Lon­go­ria and Mor­ri­son both home­red. The Rays scored three times on sac­ri­fice flies. They even recorded a hit by Ce­sar Puello that struck the stair­case be­tween the A and B ring cat­walk high above home plate.

It was that kind of night for the Rays of­fense, which drew 10 walks and struck out only seven times.

They didn’t get a hit with a run­ner in scor­ing po­si­tion (0-for-10), but for once it didn’t mat­ter.

Lon­go­ria’s homer was his 20th of the sea­son, giv­ing him at least 20 for the fifth straight year and ninth in his 10-year ca­reer.

“(He’s a) spe­cial player,” Cash said. “That ba­si­cally sums it up. Longo does it on the of­fen­sive slide, de­fen­sive side, in the club­house. We’re for­tu­nate to have him. I know his year, he’s go­ing to look back and say maybe this wasn’t his strong­est, but it’s still a tes­ta­ment to him that he’s grind­ing through it. He’s out there, he plays through a bunch of in­juries con­stantly. I’m glad he got it. Now I can give him a day off ” to­day.

Mor­ri­son’s homer was his 38th of the sea­son, one shy of ty­ing Car­los Peña for the sec­ond most in a sea­son in fran­chise his­tory.

Peña, who holds the team record with 46 in 2007, hit 39 in 2009.

Two more games re­main be­fore the cur­tain comes down on what is ul­ti­mately a dis­ap­point­ing sea­son since the Rays held a wild-card spot in July.

The boxes are a tipoff.

But the Rays feel they are still play­ing for some­thing.

“They got pride,” Cash said. “That has never been ques­tioned. Their ef­fort had not been ques­tioned through­out this year. We’ve had plenty of rough patches, more than we’d like to have, but the ef­fort level of these guys is some­thing you can hang your hat on and be proud about.”

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Ori­oles man­ager Buck Showal­ter talks with um­pires af­ter Ce­sar Puello’s fly hits a cat­walk stair­case and lands for a sin­gle.

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