Orioles, Rays clinch playoff berths with Rangers’ loss to Guardians
Texas’ 9-2 loss ensured Baltimore and Tampa Bay would each gain at least a wild card in the American League.
The Orioles edged the Rays 5-4 in an 11-inning thriller in Baltimore, touching off an on-field celebration in which the O’s players wore orange shirts that read, “TAKE OCTOBER.”
The Orioles eventually made it into their clubhouse, where they held a bubbly party with plastic protecting their lockers from getting soaked.
“We had a couple meetings about it. The veteran players talked us through it,” general manager Mike Elias said. “If we had lost today’s game, I think we would have done a toast, something a little more subdued. I think they wanted to celebrate after a walk-off win, so this worked out perfectly.”
The atmosphere was quiet in the Tampa Bay clubhouse.
“They’re all special in their own way,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash, who had been ejected in the bottom of the ninth over a checked swing. “I just spoke to the club really briefly, congratulated the guys in the room, the guys that have contributed throughout that are not in the room with us. It’s taken a lot to get here. I think everybody realizes that.”
The winner of the game would have wrapped up a playoff spot regardless. However, the Orioles salvaged a split in this four-game series at Camden Yards and took a two-game lead over Tampa Bay atop the AL East. Baltimore also holds the tiebreaker over the Rays.
The Orioles are postseason-bound for the first time since 2016, another benchmark for a successful rebuild fueled by their excellent minor league system. Baltimore lost 110 games just two seasons ago before improving to 83-79 in 2022 and taking another big step forward this year, currently sitting at 93-56.
“It’s not easy,” said Cedric Mullins, the center fielder now in his sixth season with the Orioles who hit the sacrifice fly that sealed Sunday’s win. “The way we’re celebrating right now kind of shows just how difficult it is to get to this point.”
Tampa Bay (92-59) is in the postseason for the fifth straight year. A playoff berth seemed likely all the way back in April, when the Rays looked dominant in winning their first 13 games. They were eventually passed by Baltimore, but they’ve been able to keep winning despite losing ace Shane McClanahan to Tommy John surgery. Wander Franco, Tampa Bay’s star shortstop, has been on administrative leave while authorities in the Dominican Republic investigate him for alleged relationships with minors.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.