Incredibly, the Rays are 2 games out (again), and this time they could do it themselves

CHICAGO -- Through 156 games last year, the Rays were two games out in the race for the final playoff spot.

Thursday night's game in Chicago was their 156th of 2012. With their 3-2 win over the White Sox, the Rays are now . . . yes, two games out of the final playoff spot.

"It's kind of incredible," manager Joe Maddon said.

Here's what's more incredible: With the Angels' loss to the Mariners on Thursday afternoon, the Rays can now make it to the playoffs simply by winning the rest of their games. They'll accept help, but if they keep winning, they don't absolutely need it.

By this time last year, the Rays were already done playing the Red Sox, the team they were chasing for what was then a single wild-card spot. They needed someone else to beat the Red Sox, and fortunately for them, the Yankees and Orioles obliged.

This time around, the Rays will finish their season with three home games against the Orioles, who currently hold one of the two wild-card spots in the American League. If the Rays can get through this weekend with a deficit of three games or less, they would have a chance to at least force a tie-breaking game by sweeping the O's.

"I think we've kind of gotten used to the idea of not being able to control things," Evan Longoria said. "The lack of pressure of playing from behind is more familiar to us. It gives us a little extra drive, determination."

The Rays were answering questions Thursday about last year's amazing comeback, because Friday is the one-year anniversary of Game 162, and Longoria's wild-card clinching home run.

"I remember crossing the plate, and seeing the unbelievableness, if that's a word," he said.

"Myriad of emotions," Maddon said. "Within minutes, going from losing to winning to celebrating."

Now, incredibly, they're setting up for what could be another crazy finish.

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