Rays aim to spoil Baltimore's hopes of a division title

The Tampa Bay Rays had their postseason hopes dashed on Monday. Now, they'll try to end the Baltimore Orioles' chances at an American League East crown in the middle test of a three-game series at Tropicana Field.

Despite winning for the 11th time in 12 games in Monday's opener, the Rays were eliminated from playoff contention when Oakland defeated Texas.

Baltimore, meanwhile, has already secured at least a wild card berth, but fell one game back of the New York Yankees in the division on Monday with its 5-3 loss to the Rays.

"We didn't take care of our business," Baltimore center fielder Adam Jones said. "We lost. When it comes to the Yankees, we can't control them. We can't control if they win or lose."

Baltimore's title hopes will end with another loss to Tampa Bay coupled with a Yankees defeat of Boston.

Alex Cobb tossed seven strong innings in Monday's win, while Ben Zobrist homered and Chris Gimenez hit a two-run double in the victory.

Tampa carried a 5-1 lead into the ninth inning, but the Orioles made things interesting, as Chris Davis' two-run homer brought them within two and then put two runners on with no outs. However, Rays closer Fernando Rodney struck out Jim Thome and Mark Reynolds, and induced a grounder back to the mound by pinch-hitter Endy Chavez to end the game.

"We're playing this like every other game we're playing this year," Orioles catcher Matt Wieters said. "We're going out there trying to win every game and we'll forget about this going into tomorrow."

Davis has now homered in five straight games. The last player to homer in six consecutive games was Rays first baseman Carlos Pena from June 6-12, 2010, and the last Orioles player to do it was Reggie Jackson in 1976.

Tampa was trying to reach the postseason for the third straight season.

"Honestly, it just is what it is," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "We had opportunities early in the year to win more games, and we did not. But so did everybody else."

Getting the call for the Orioles on Tuesday will be righty Miguel Gonzalez, who has won his last two starts. Gonzalez defeated Toronto on Wednesday, limiting them to two runs and five hits in seven innings, as he improved to 8-4 to go along with a 3.45 ERA.

Baltimore has won eight of his last 10 starts, and Gonzalez is 6-2 in those outings.

Gonzalez is 0-1 in three starts against the Rays with a 5.17 ERA.

Tampa, meanwhile, will counter with righty James Shields, who will be trying to match his career-high win total of 16 he set last year. Shields did not register a decision on Thursday against the Chicago White Sox, as he allowed two runs and six hits in 6 1/3 innings.

In his last 11 starts, Shields, who is 15-9 with a 3.62 ERA on the year, is 7-2 with a 2.10 ERA, and opponents are hitting just .176 against him with 74 strikeouts and only 14 walks.

"I'm happy with my season, happy with the way I finished strong," Shields said. "I think my last 12 starts or so have been pretty solid. No matter what happens, I think I want to try to continue this next year."

Shields has faced the Orioles 23 times and is 9-6 against them with a 3.70 ERA.

Baltimore is 9-7 versus the Rays this season.