St. Petersburg, FL – Evan Longoria clubbed three home runs and the Tampa Bay Rays ended the Baltimore Orioles' hopes for an AL East title with a 4-1 triumph in the finale of a three-game set Wednesday at Tropicana Field.
Longoria, who scorched a game-winning, wild-card-clinching 12th-inning homer in the Rays' final regular-season game last year, homered in each of his first three plate appearances to help the Rays (90-72) complete their third straight 90-win campaign.
"Getting 90 wins, I felt really strongly about, and I did mention it in my address to the team yesterday," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "Organizationally speaking for this particular ballclub, it's important to win 90 games. And it also highlights going into next year how important 95 is.
Jeremy Hellickson (10-11) struck out six and walked one over 5 1/3 scoreless innings of one-hit ball to earn the victory.
Adam Jones knocked in the lone run for the Orioles (92-69), who managed just two hits in each of the last two games.
"I've got to tip my hat to them," O's manager Buck Showalter said. "and what is really kind of amazing is that you look over there with what they've been able to do this year, win 90 games, and that tells you what a fine line there is in all those extra-inning games and one-run losses, and we could be in the same position they are."
The O's will visit the Rangers in the first-ever wild-card game on Friday after Texas lost to the AL West champion Oakland Athletics earlier on Wednesday.
Chris Tillman (9-3) absorbed the loss after giving up three runs on four hits with five strikeouts over five frames.
The Rays struck in their first at-bat, as Longoria stroked a two-out blast into the left-field seats to give the home team a 1-0 lead.
Hellickson retired 11 straight batters before Chris Davis reached base on a dropped third strike in the fourth. Davis then went to third on Jones' single to right field, but Hellickson grounded out Matt Wieters to escape the frame.
In the fourth, Longoria crushed a change-up deep into the left-field bleachers to double the Rays' advantage.
After Matt Joyce fanned, Ryan Roberts launched a towering fly ball that barely cleared the wall in left field for a 3-0 lead.
Hellickson walked Manny Machado to start the sixth before popping out Nate McLouth. Jake McGee then took over on the mound and flied out J.J. Hardy before striking out Davis to end the sixth.
Longoria clubbed his third home run of the night in the bottom half when he belted a slider over the wall in straightaway center field for a 4-0 edge.
Longoria had a shot at a record-tying fourth home run in the eighth, but he grounded out weakly to third to end the frame.
Hardy stroked a leadoff double in the ninth, moved to third on defensive indifference and scored two batters later on Jones' sacrifice fly.
Wieters followed with a single before Fernando Rodney entered from the bullpen and flied out Jim Thome to nail down his 48th save of the season.
It was Longoria's second career three-homer game ... The Rays finished 47-27 with Longoria in the starting lineup, but went just 43-45 without him ... Baltimore won 10 of 18 matchups with the Rays this season to win the season series for the first time since 2007 ... Rodney set the major league record for earned run average by a relief pitcher (min. 50 IP) with a 0.60 ERA, surpassing former Oakland A's reliever Dennis Eckersley's mark of 0.61 set in 1990 ... Jones became the first Oriole to play in 162 games since Miguel Tejada in 2006.