Of all the Rays accomplished last season, winning the American League East championship was the achievement they were most proud of because it signified they were the best - and thus better than the Yankees and Red Sox - over the rigors of a full season.
Sunday, when they were officially dethroned in being eliminated from the race by the Yankees, they spoke of rededicating themselves to prevail again.
"Our goal coming into this season was to defend our American League East crown," executive VP Andrew Friedman said. "Obviously we fell short of that.
"With our recent skid I think the focus is going to be much more on how we've played the last two weeks as opposed to the body of work and the talent we have on hand.
"We feel very confident as we start the process of focusing on the 2010 team that we'll be able to have a group that will fight and claw to bring the American League East banner back to Tampa Bay."
Manager Joe Maddon - who considered the division title an "unbelievable achievement" - said they aren't far away from doing so again.
"As we get into winter time," he said, "it's going to be important and pertinent we are able to identify properly and put together for next year the team that's going to win the division title, which I believe we will."
The Rays are still mathematically in the wild-card race, with a tragic number of 8 to be eliminated by the Red Sox. Of greater concern may be finishing above .500.
"We have to try and finish out on a positive note," Evan Longoria said, "whether it's making it a long shot into the playoffs or just finishing the year above .500 and with a good record."
LATE PAIN: The Rays have given up 37 homers (of 165 total) from the eighth inning on, with Dustin Pedroia's opening-game shot the eighth since the Aug. 7 start of their decline that either tied the score or cost the Rays a lead.
ANGRY PAT: The frustration of Pat Burrell's extended struggles surfaced when he was ejected in the eighth inning for barking at umpire Lance Barksdale after being called out on a check-swing strike.
"He's here early every day, he's working hard to get it right every day," Maddon said. "In that particular moment I know that he was frustrated by the whole thing. There's no question."
Burrell is in a 2-for-31 skid, with 11 strikeouts in 11 games, that has dropped his average to .227. He left without being available to the media.
PITCHING IN: RHP Andy Sonnanstine's two starts since his return from Triple A haven't gone well, as he is 0-2, 14.85. But, due to the disruption to the rotation from Friday's postponement and Sunday's doubleheader, he'll get another chance Wednesday at Baltimore.
MINOR MATTERS: Triple-A Durham advanced to the International League best-of-five finals starting Tuesday at home against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Yankees) with a 5-3 Game 5 win over Louisville (Reds). INF Sean Rodriguez, the key acquisition from the Angels, started the go-ahead rally. ... Class A Charlotte evened the best-of-five Florida State League championship at 1 with a 9-2 win over Tampa (Yankees) behind three RBIs by Matt Sweeney, another piece of the Scott Kazmir trade. The series shifts to Charlotte with games tonight, Tuesday and, if needed, Wednesday. For ticket info and to follow the games, see stonecrabsbaseball.com.
MISCELLANY: CF B.J. Upton returned to the lineup in the second game, going 0-for-3. He said his recently sprained left ankle felt fine and he is good to go for the rest of the season. ... The Rays have scored 23 runs over the 11-game losing streak.
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The (Devil) Rays knew bad, and the current 11-game streak is among their worst: