BALTIMORE — No matter what the standings indicate, the Tampa Bay Rays still believe they can extend their season into October.
And they intend to have fun doing it.
In spite of a painfully familiar 4-2 loss to the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday night, the fading Rays remained hopeful that it's not too late to turn things around.
Sure, they're in fourth place in the AL East. Yes, Tampa Bay has lost seven of 10 since reaching .500 on Aug. 15. That doesn't necessarily mean they can't rebound from a poor start in this four-game series.
"There will always be time," said starter Alex Cobb, who lasted only four innings. "Mathematically we needed to come out and put on a better performance than these first two days. These were big games. I needed to work deeper in the game and put together a more quality of an outing. But there will never be any quit as long as mathematically we have a chance to get the second wild-card spot."
Evan Longoria, who drove in both Tampa Bay runs, added, "We haven't really played that poorly. We've played pretty well. The pitching staff has done well. I think really just control what we can control, continue to believe and have fun."
Tampa Bay stranded nine, had two runners thrown out at the plate and failed to score after loading the bases in the sixth inning with one out and the game tied.
"Opportunity, opportunity, opportunity and then nothing happens," manager Joe Maddon said. "It's the same refrain — inability to score with runners in scoring position. We had great at-bats. We just have had a hard time finishing that play up. Bases loaded has not been a good play for us either and explanation for that I don't have. It's called baseball. Probably next year we will be like the best team in all of baseball."
Cobb gave up two runs, three hits and three walks. The right-hander is unbeaten since June 23 and has a franchise-record streak of nine starts allowing two runs or fewer.
The Rays got six hits in the first two innings but scored only one run, on a first-inning RBI single by Longoria.
A two-out double by Longoria tied it in the fifth and ended Wei-Yin Chen's shortest outing since June 28.
But the Rays would get only one more hit after that.
"These are the type of games we have to have late in the season," Joseph said.
So do the Rays. But time is running out, thanks to a 1-14 skid from May 26-June 10.
"You can see how close the two teams actually are in regards to ability and talent and everything else," Maddon said. "We buried ourselves earlier in the year with that one horrific stretch. But at this particular moment, the teams are pretty evenly matched."
Orioles: 3B Manny Machado left the team for California to have season-ending surgery on his right knee Wednesday.
Rays: Left-hander Drew Smyly (1-1) starts Wednesday, seeking an encore for his two-hit shutout Friday in Toronto. Smyly has an 0.64 ERA in four career appearances against Baltimore.
Orioles: Rookie RHP Kevin Gausman (7-5) is 1-2 with a 7.16 ERA in four career games against Tampa Bay.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
Replay was used in the third inning on, of all things, a walk.
Umpires called for a crew chief review after home plate umpire Pat Hoberg awarded Nick Markakis first base. A replay of the at-bat revealed the count was full, and Markakis returned to the plate. The next pitch was a called strike three.