The Baltimore Orioles are back in the postseason for the first time since 1997. But, they would like to enter the playoffs as American League East champions rather than a wild card.
"I think everybody knows where the finish line is, and we're not there," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.
The Orioles try to stay atop the division on Monday when they open a three- game set against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field.
Baltimore has won its last four games and enters this final series of the regular season tied with the New York Yankees for first place in the AL East with three games to go. New York will host Boston in its final series.
The Orioles completed a three-game sweep of the Boston Red Sox on Sunday, as Nate McLouth led off the bottom of the first with a home run and Baltimore went on to score twice more in the inning en route to a 6-3 victory at Camden Yards.
J.J. Hardy and Chris Davis also homered for the Orioles, who, along with the Yankees clinched a playoff spot later on Sunday after the Texas Rangers split a doubleheader with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
"You're in, you're in," center fielder Adam Jones said of clinching a playoff spot. "I don't care, nobody cares. We can do it at home or we can do it on the plane. We are going to party somewhere."
Baltimore hopes Wei-Yin Chen can snap out of his recent funk when he takes the hill on Monday. Chen has lost his last three decisions, is winless in his last six starts and was roughed up by the Toronto Blue Jays his last time out. Chen surrendered five runs and nine hits in five innings of that one, dropping him to 12-10 to go along with a 4.11 ERA.
"After the first batter in the first inning, I walked a guy. I started feeling like, 'Wow. This is not the day for me,'" Chen said through an interpreter. "I tried to fight, fight through it. It definitely was not my day, things went a different direction."
Chen has faced the Rays four times this season and is 1-2 against them with a 3.38 ERA.
Tampa Bay also has its sights set on the postseason, but those hopes are fading, despite the fact that the Rays have won 10 of 11 after taking three of four from the Chicago White Sox.
The Rays are three games back of the Oakland Athletics for the second wild card spot. A loss or an A's win will eliminate them.
Tampa kept its hopes alive on Sunday, as David Price became the first 20-game winner in Tampa Bay history, helping the Rays to a 6-2 victory over the fading White Sox.
Price (20-5) held the White Sox to two runs and five hits while striking out four over the first seven innings to join the Angels' Jered Weaver as the lone 20-game winners in the American League this season. The Cy Young Award candidate also tops the AL with a 2.56 earned run average and improved to 12-1 over his last 18 starts.
"I thought [Price should win the award] even before the game began," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "Of course, he had to pitch well and he did. That's 20 (wins), and he's done it in a very consistent manner. He's pretty much been the same guy every time out."
Getting the call for Tampa Bay on Monday will be righty Alex Cobb, who has won six of his last seven decisions. Cobb defeated the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday, limiting them to a run and three hits in five innings to run his record to 10-9, while shrinking his ERA to 4.18.
"I mean, it's been up and down all year," Cobb said. "It's been good of late. I'd say after the All-Star break, it started getting a lot better. I started feeling more comfortable. Before that, it was more of a fight and just trying to battle. But it's been a lot smoother down the stretch."
Cobb did not get a decision in his only other start against the Orioles.
Baltimore is 9-6 versus the Rays this season.