|Tampa Bay (94-63) «||0||1||1||1||2||0||0||0||x||5||6||0|
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Music blared, champagne flowed and a half-empty stadium rocked.
The Tampa Bay Rays are back in the playoffs, and their complaints about a lack of fan support have been put on hold.
The AL East title is still within reach. So is another trip to the World Series.
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"We hit a couple of rough patches along the way, but we found a way," B.J. Upton said after the Rays clinched their second postseason spot in three years with a 5-0 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday night.
With 19-game winner David Price delivering another impressive pitching performance on a day he described as a "nightmare," the Rays also got solo home runs from Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena to set the stage for a wild party.
Price (19-6) scattered six hits over eight innings and allowed only one runner past second base. The 25-year-old left-hander struck out eight and walked none in what likely will be his final start of the regular season.
The Rays, who made an improbable run to the World Series two years ago with Price coming out of the bullpen to close out their pennant-clinching win over Boston, retained a half-game lead over the New York Yankees in the AL East.
The Yankees clinched a playoff spot Tuesday night with a 6-1 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays.
"I never had any doubt that this was a playoff team," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "I want it to be a World Series champ."
Price agonized much of the day over a critical comment he posted the previous night on Twitter, blasting the low attendance -- 12,446 -- for a potential clincher that Tampa Bay lost to Baltimore on Monday night.
"That was a nightmare. I knew if I didn't throw well, I was going to be done" with the fans, Price said.
"All day. Everything that led up to it was terrible," Price added. "We want more fans here, obviously. We love our fans that come, that's not what I was saying last night."
Tuesday's crowd was announced as 17,891 -- about 5,000 below the Rays' season average -- but Price expressed his appreciation during on on-field interview, repeatedly saying: "Thank you, Thank you," and waving his hat to the cheering fans.
The celebration began with the players slipping on "Playoff" T-shirts and heading into the clubhouse before returning to the field, where they sprayed fans, team employees, and even police officers, with champagne.
Price wasn't the only Rays All-Star who took some heat after speaking out about low attendance on Monday night.
While the pitcher weighed in on Twitter, calling the turnout "embarrassing," third baseman Evan Longoria called it "disheartening" and went into much greater detail.
"That was obviously something that I had thought about for a long time, and coming into today I really didn't want to talk about it, again," Longoria said.
"Obviously, everybody has their own opinion. But the one thing I do want to say is, for the fans that have been coming out this year, we're happy that they have been here, and that's the one thing just moving forward from all this and not looking back, we need to say thank you to the fans that have been here."
Team president Matt Silverman announced before the game that the Rays will make available 20,000 free tickets for Wednesday night's regular-season home finale against the Orioles, a decision the executive said probably wouldn't have been made if the players had not spoken out about low attendance.
Any fans who purchased tickets in sections where free ones are located may exchange them for a lower box seat.
"This is about getting more energy into Tropicana Field, getting this place packed, and for the players to thrive off of that emotion," Silverman said. "We saw it in the past. We've seen it this year, and we will see it in the postseason."
Price, who this season became the youngest pitcher to start an All-Star game since Dwight Gooden in 1988, didn't allow a baserunner past second base until the seventh inning. He struck out Nick Markakis to finish a one-two-three eighth, and Rafael Soriano worked a perfect ninth in a non-save situation.
Upton's second-inning RBI single off Brad Bergensen (8-11) gave Price all the offensive support he would need. Dan Johnson had a run-scoring double in the third, and Pena's 28th homer made it 3-0 in the fourth.
Pena entered Tuesday batting .198, lowest among all major league qualifiers, and he hadn't homered since going deep against the Yankees' Ivan Nova on Sept. 14. Crawford hit his 17th homer after Zobrist hit a sacrifice fly earlier in the fifth.
Bergensen allowed five runs and six hits over five innings.
|The Rays' Carl Crawford (right) hugs coach Dave Martinez after clinching a playoff berth with a 5-0 win over the Orioles. (AP)|
|Players of the Game|
|Julio Lugo, 2B||3||0||1||0||0||2||0||.249|
|Brandon Snyder, 1B||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||.235|
|Robert Andino, SS||4||0||1||0||0||0||1||.244|
|Nick Markakis, RF||4||0||2||0||0||1||1||.293|
|Ty Wigginton, 1B-2B||4||0||0||0||0||1||3||.254|
|Jake Fox, DH||3||0||1||0||0||1||1||.219|
|a- Corey Patterson, PH-DH||1||0||0||0||0||1||0||.270|
|Adam Jones, CF||4||0||0||0||0||2||2||.280|
|Matt Wieters, C||3||0||1||0||0||1||2||.252|
|Nolan Reimold, LF||3||0||0||0||0||0||1||.214|
|Josh Bell, 3B||3||0||0||0||0||1||1||.211|
|a-struck out for Fox in the 9th|
|2B - Nick Markakis (45, Price), Matt Wieters (22, Price)|
|Team LOB - 6|
|Outfield Assists - Adam Jones 1|
|DP - Jones-Bell|
|Brad Bergesen (L,8-11)||5||6||5||5||3||2||2||5.02|
|Pitches-Strikes - Brad Bergesen 89-53, Mark Hendrickson 14-10, Pedro Viola 9-7|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Brad Bergesen 4-8, Mark Hendrickson 1-5|
|Batters Faced - Brad Bergesen 23, Mark Hendrickson 6, Pedro Viola 3|
|Tampa Bay Rays|
|John Jaso, C||4||1||1||0||0||0||0||.266|
|Ben Zobrist, 2B||3||0||0||1||0||1||0||.243|
|Carl Crawford, LF||3||2||2||1||1||1||0||.309|
|Dan Johnson, DH||4||0||1||1||0||1||1||.212|
|Matt Joyce, RF||3||1||0||0||1||1||1||.234|
|Carlos Pena, 1B||2||1||1||1||1||0||0||.199|
|B.J. Upton, CF||3||0||1||1||0||0||0||.240|
|Reid Brignac, SS||3||0||0||0||0||0||0||.263|
|Sean Rodriguez, 3B||3||0||0||0||0||0||1||.253|
|2B - Dan Johnson (3, Bergesen)|
|3B - John Jaso (3, Bergesen)|
|HR - Carl Crawford (17, Bergesen), Carlos Pena (28, Bergesen)|
|SF - Ben Zobrist (12)|
|RBI - Ben Zobrist (75), Carl Crawford (88), Dan Johnson (23), Carlos Pena (82), B.J. Upton (61)|
|2-OUT RBI - Dan Johnson (10)|
|Team LOB - 3|
|Tampa Bay Rays|
|David Price (W,19-6)||8||6||0||0||0||8||0||2.73|
|Pitches-Strikes - David Price 113-81, Rafael Soriano 14-9|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - David Price 5-11, Rafael Soriano 1-0|
|Batters Faced - David Price 30, Rafael Soriano 3|
|Attendance - 17891|
|Game Time - 2:08|
|Temperature - 72|
|Umpires - Home - Joe West, First Base - Angel Hernandez, Second Base - Rob Drake, Third Base - Mike Everitt|