And on Monday, when the Orioles meet the Rays for the first time since helping to save their season — they will face each other 18 times during the regular season — Tampa Bay wants to show its gratitude.

"It's not because they won, it's because they went after the moment," Maddon said. "You can't ask for a team to win, you can only ask for a team to play the game the right way. Our gratitude extends to their professionalism. It's even better because of the way it turned out, but the Orioles were a significant part of our run because they remained pro the whole time.

"I definitely want to talk to Buck and make sure Buck hears that from me."

The Orioles, who won't send some of their starters to Port Charlotte for the split squad game, are looking forward. They still relish last year's finish, but want to move beyond that moment.

"We learned how to compete that last month," Orioles catcher Matt Wieters said. "Hopefully we can carry that into this year. Anytime you can win, it can be contagious, but I think most of the process is that last year is last year. No games from last year count toward this year. That's the good thing, because everyone starts out 0-0."

Still, the memory — and the connection between those AL East "middle children" — remains.

"We owed it to the integrity of the game," Reynolds said. "We owe is to the fans to bust our tails. I thought it was more of a professional thing than anything. We could have easily rolled over and let everyone beat us and not give a crap. Buck's always telling us about playing to the last out and playing hard and never giving in. That's what we did."

"It was fun, but not quite as exciting as making the playoffs," added Reynolds, who went to the playoffs with Arizona in 2007. "That's where I want to get back to."

Shields said after seeing the Orioles finish last season, he wouldn't be surprised if they feed off their September run .

"Obviously, it helped us out, but they played the game the right way," he said. "You don't find that very often. I think you're going to see a little different Baltimore Orioles team because of that. I think they proved to themselves that no matter who they play, they can beat them."

eencina@baltsun.com

twitter.com/EddieInTheYard