ST. PETERSBURG — Right-hander Wade Davis said the last-place yet resurgent Orioles have been "playing like they've got nothing to lose."
And on Monday night, they outplayed the Rays, who had everything to gain by being one win away from clinching a postseason berth. As a result, Tampa Bay was shut out 4-0 by Baltimore for its second straight loss, and its anticipated celebration will have to wait another day.
"It's something we've got to do ourselves; it's not something that's just going to come to us," Davis said of the Rays sealing their postseason fate. "I don't think there's any pressure right now. I think everything is pretty relaxed; we've just got to keep playing our game."
The game certainly didn't have the feel of a potentially special night, not with 12,446 in the stands (the fourth-lowest crowd of the season at the Trop), the Rays mustering just three hits and the Orioles putting them away in a brisk 2 hours, 38 minutes.
The good news for Tampa Bay (93-63) was that the Yankees lost 7-5 to the Blue Jays, so it remains a half-game ahead in the American League East.
Manager Joe Maddon said his players were in a good place before and during the game, and though he "wasn't expecting a big crowd," he didn't feel the Rays' intensity was affected. He said simply that Orioles left-hander Brian Matusz was just that good.
Matusz stifled the Rays, allowing just three hits and tying his career high with eight strikeouts over seven innings to win his fifth straight game. Over his past 10 starts, Matusz is 6-1 with a 2.09 ERA.
Matusz "was outstanding," Maddon said. "He didn't miss a spot all night. He commanded every pitch that he had. That was about as good as he can be (Monday night)."
Said Rays catcher Kelly Shoppach: "He had really good stuff; what are you going to do? He was able to work in and out, up and down."
Davis (12-10), whose seven-game winning streak — tied for longest ever by a Ray — was snapped, was also impressive in a losing effort. The rookie scattered seven hits over 61/3 innings while getting charged with three runs.
"I thought Wade was really sharp," Maddon said. "He deserved a better fate in regards to the number of runs given up."
With two on and one out in the seventh and the Rays down 1-0, Davis was relieved by lefty Randy Choate. When Nick Markakis singled to rightfield, Ben Zobrist made a good one-hop throw to the right of the plate, but Shoppach couldn't corral it as it bounced off his glove, and Felix Pie scored.
"It would have been a close play had he caught the ball cleanly," Maddon said.
Reliever Chad Qualls then came in and gave up a sacrifice fly to Ty Wigginton and an RBI single to Luke Scott, who beat the Rays' shifted defense by hitting the ball through the hole at short, padding the Orioles lead to 4-0.
Baltimore (62-94) snapped its four-game losing streak. But the Rays planned on turning the page and giving it another shot tonight, with ace left-hander David Price on the mound.
"It's been a long time since this team has been frustrated," Shoppach said. "So I can't imagine a couple losses fazing too many people."
Joe Smith can be reached at email@example.com.