ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Rays are confident they’ll play at Tropicana Field again this year.
Wil Myers tied it with a two-run single on a jarring play in the seventh inning then pinch-hitter James Loney stunned the Orioles with a leadoff homer in the ninth, and the Rays completed a four-game sweep that put a serious damper in Baltimore’s wild-card hopes with a 5-4 victory Monday.
“You can feel it, you can’t necessarily describe it, but it’s there,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said “You know that your guys have that vibe going on. It’s a good feeling.”
The win pushed the Rays a game ahead of idle Cleveland for the top AL wild card. Baltimore fell five games back of the Indians with six games to go for both teams. Tampa Bay would host the wild-card game Oct. 2 if it could hold its position.
The Orioles also lost All-Star third baseman Manny Machado to a leg injury in the top of the seventh. Machado’s left leg buckled when he stepped on first base running out an infield single. He was taken off on a stretcher.
Baltimore manager Buck Showalter had no immediate update on Machado’s injury as the team awaited test results. Machado will undergo an MRI on Tuesday.
“It’s horrible,” Maddon said. “That guy there, to me, Baltimore has really ascended over the last couple years and I really believe he’s been at the cornerstone, the keystone of that whole thing. Hate to see that. This is a young man, a tremendous talent. You can see the effort level with them. This young man blows out his knee, possibly. You can see how badly they wanted it, too.”
“It feels pretty good, obviously, to win the game like that in the last game of the regular season at home … it’s a special feeling,” Loney said after Tampa Bays’ regular-season finale.
With the bases loaded, two outs and trailing 4-2 in the seventh, Myers, a rookie, sent a flare behind second base. Second baseman Alexi Casilla, who entered the game in the eighth, made a fully extended diving catch but he collided with Nick Markakis, racing in toward the ball from right field. The ball came loose and two runs scored.
Casilla hit his head on the play, but remained in the game. However, he left one inning later.
“I probably should have taken him out but I didn’t know what he had hit until between innings,” Showalter said. “He’s going to get a CAT scan and stay overnight here, not travel. He got a little foggy-headed between innings and had to come out of there.”
“I’m not a doctor or anything, but when he was out there, I could have sworn he was knocked out,” Markakis added. “He kind of looked dazed and confused. I thought about doing a slide, saw him out of the corner of my eye, tried to pull up and get out of the way. It was just bang bang, him coming full speed, me coming full speed. It was like trying to stop a train on a dime. It’s tough.”
Hitting for Sean Rodriguez, Loney lined an 0-1 pitch from Tommy Hunter (6-5) down the right field line.
Joel Peralta (3-8) pitched a perfect ninth for the Rays, who have won nine of 12.
Chris Davis hit his major league-best 52nd homer for Baltimore.
After Matt Wieters was thrown out attempting to stretch a leadoff double into a triple in the eighth, Nate McLouth turned a bunt to the first base side off reliever Jamey Wright into a double. Wright worked out of the jam by retiring the next two batters.
Machado singled for the Orioles’ first hit leading off the fourth and Davis followed with his two-run shot off Chris Archer as part of a three-run inning that put Baltimore ahead 3-1. J.J. Hardy had an RBI single.
Going back to the final 11 innings of the Orioles’ 5-4, 18-inning loss to the Rays Friday night, Baltimore had just two runs and 10 hits over 32 innings before getting the three runs on four hits in the fourth.
The fourth inning ended when Ryan Flaherty was retired on a strange strikeout with two on. He swung and missed a two-strike pitch that ended up hitting him in the leg.
Jose Molina got the Rays to 3-2 on an RBI double in the bottom of the fourth.
Brian Roberts gave Baltimore a 4-2 lead on a fifth-inning homer.
Tim Beckham, taken first overall in the 2008 draft, put the Rays up 1-0 on a sacrifice fly in the second. It was the rookie’s first major league RBI.
Archer gave up four runs and five hits in 4 1-3 innings. Baltimore left-hander Wei-Yin Chen also went 4 1-3 innings, allowing two runs and six hits.
NOTES: The Rays had been hitless in their previous 18 at-bats with the bases loaded before Myers’ hit in the seventh. … Tampa Bay slugger Evan Longoria, who was out of the starting lineup Sunday due to flu-like symptoms, started at third. … Showalter said RHP Chris Tillman, who tweaked his ankle last Thursday, will make his scheduled start Tuesday night against Toronto. … Tampa Bay CF Desmond Jennings sat out went with a left hamstring strain. Maddon expects Jennings to return before the regular season ends.