Final series kicks off on an up note
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.”
Orioles manager Buck Showalter talks with umpires after Cesar Puello’s fly hits a catwalk staircase and lands for a single.