9/28/2013 6:50 P.M. ET
Stumble sets Rays up for quite a Wild finish
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
TORONTO -- With a 7-2 loss to the Blue Jays on Saturday, Tampa Bay has now lost two in a row after winning seven straight.
Despite the losses, the Rays have still won 12 of their last 17 games. Meanwhile, the Indians and Rangers have rolled on. Rays manager Joe Maddon saluted his team, along with its competition, for how well they have played down the stretch.
"It's been great," Maddon said. "The fact we've been running the table. We hiccuped a little bit yesterday, and the other teams did not. But we've got to keep going. It's just been really fascinating, nobody wants to give in. And it's been really tightly contested, and it's been interesting. And we're still in that situation to control our own fate."
Earlier in the month, each of the teams now contending for the Wild Card seemed stalled in the playoff push.
"It went on for a while that nobody seemed to want to get this thing," Maddon said. "We just started to play better regarding offense, I think as much as anything. We continue to pitch as normally, and defense. Last night was unusual for us, defensively. But I think our offense has pick up a bit to the point that's what's permitted us to be as hot as we've been."
Longoria no stranger to Game 162 heroics
TORONTO -- Evan Longoria has been there before. He's the one everybody in baseball thinks about when the conversation is Game No. 162.
That's because he came through with the walk-off home run in the final game of the 2011 season that put the Rays into the playoffs.
In fact Longoria's six career home runs in "Game 162s" (or final games of the regular season) ties him with St. Louis great Stan Musial for the most in Major League history. Longoria hit three home runs in last year's finale and two in 2011.
The unquestioned leader of the Rays managed a smile when asked about the must-win situation the Rays find themselves in heading into the final game of the 2013 regular season.
"I was thinking about it," Longoria said. "It's nice to play 162 games that are relevant, you know. ... We can't say we've never been there before. And I like our chances. Unfortunately we ran into two pretty good pitching performances [the first two games against the Blue Jays]."
A Rays fan would be pleased to witness Longoria's demeanor on the eve of the biggest game of the season.
"I'm excited for tomorrow," Longoria said. "Of course it would be nice to not have to worry about tomorrow and have it locked up. But at the same time, [the Rangers and the Indians] are playing their butts off. You have to give them credit and really just handle business ourselves. Go out there and win the game and not worry about watching the scoreboard. I'm excited. I'm really excited."
Longoria noted that the Rays' body of work to date is not enough.
"Again, it's been a great year for us," Longoria said. "I think the main thing has to be not to be satisfied with just calling it a good year. I think we're in a good spot.
"We like to make it interesting, that's for sure. There's no lack of intensity ... excitement. I'm sure everybody will be on the edge of their seat tomorrow if they're watching it on TV or if they're here at the ballpark. I think everybody in here is pretty calm and confident. Like I said, we've been there before. And hopefully we can draw from that."
• Delmon Young hit his 100th career home run in Friday night's loss; it was Young's second homer in as many nights. He got another start at DH on Saturday as he's currently swinging the bat the best among the team's DH candidates. Entering Saturday's action, he was hitting .269 with six extra-base hits and a .345 on-base percentage in 20 games with the Rays.
"I think he's probably feeling better now than he has all season," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "I think he's very motivated right now. There's a lot to like about it. … I feel very fortunate he's here right now."
• Despite the three errors the Rays committed Friday night, they went into Saturday's action having committed just 59 errors on the season, ranking them second in the Major Leagues behind the Orioles. Friday night's game marked the first time this season the Rays committed more than two errors in a game. By contrast, the 2012 Rays committed three or more errors nine times.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.