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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles are a week removed from even mathematical playoff contention, and as they close out disappointing seasons Sunday, there are still individuals hoping to end 2017 on a positive note.
“We’re all trying to finish strong, regardless,” said Rays second baseman Brad Miller, who hit a three-run home run in Saturday’s 4-3 win. “That’s the good thing about our team. I feel we have short memories, regardless of what we’ve done in the past. You have to earn it every day.”
For the Orioles, Saturday was their sixth loss in the last seven and the 18th in 22 games as they fell hard out of wild-card contention in the final month of the season. Injuries have played a role in that, like seeing shortstop J.J. Hardy come through with two hits Saturday after missing a big chunk of the season.
“There’s a big heart there, and it’s pretty obvious what it’s meant for us not to have him for 88 games, not necessarily offensively, but he made a couple of plays today that not many shortstops make,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.
The Rays finish the 2017 season with left-hander Blake Snell on the mound. The second-year pitcher had bounced back nicely in the last two months until lasting only one inning Tuesday for the Rays’ shortest start in the last five years.
Snell (4-7, 4.27 ERA) gave up four runs on four hits in his one inning against the New York Yankees, but before that had gone 10 straight starts without taking a loss, this after opening the season with 15 straight starts without a win.
Snell is 0-1 with a 5.56 ERA against Baltimore in two career starts, including a seven-inning outing July 24 in which he took the loss despite a quality start.
The Orioles counter with right-hander Kevin Gausman, who is 11-11 with a 4.81 ERA on the season, but has owned the Rays. In two starts against Tampa Bay this season, he’s 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA, with only seven hits in 13 scoreless innings and 17 strikeouts. For his career against the Rays, he’s 5-4 with a 3.82 ERA.
Tampa Bay has clinched third place in the American League East — its best divisional finish since 2013. The Orioles go into the final day of the season tied with the Toronto Blue Jays for fourth place, the tiniest consolation to take into the offseason if they can finish ahead with one last win.
Both teams will have busy offseasons. Showalter is no lock to return with Baltimore after a disappointing drop-off from 89 wins last season, and the Rays have said they’ll trim their payroll in the offseason after again dealing with low attendance at Tropicana Field, leaving open the possibility of key players being traded away before 2018 begins.