The story of the game, of course, was Orioles' rookie lefty Brian Matusz, who allowed just three hits and two walks in seven shutout innings. All of the three hits were singles and two of them were of the infield variety. Matusz put 63 of his 94 pitches in the strike zone and started the first 15 Rays with first-pitch strikes.
"He did not miss a spot all night," Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. "He commanded every pitch that he had. We knew that he was good. Earlier in the season, he was not pitching as well, but that was about as good as he can be tonight."
In his last 10 starts, Matusz is 6-1 with a 2.09 ERA. Over his last seven, the 23-year-old lefty is 5-0 with a 1.58 ERA, and has allowed just 24 hits in 40 innings. During that span, only 23 batters have even reached second base and seven of those came in his Sept. 6 start at Yankee Stadium.
A couple of other notes:
The Orioles are now 14-11 on the road under Buck Showalter, and yes, this win counts even though bench coach Jeff Datz managed the club with Showalter serving a one-game suspension. That's notable because that's the same number of road wins in 25 games as the Orioles won in the previous 54 road games before Showalter's arrival.
Nick Markakis, who was the hitting star with two hits and two RBIs, was 0-for-7 against Rays lefty Randy Choate before his RBI single sparked the Orioles' three-run seventh.
The crowd at Tropicana Field was only 12,446, the fourth lowest of the season. I've covered many games at the Trop so I can'r say I'm stunned. But that's still kind of said when you consider the Rays need one win or a Boston Red Sox loss to clinch their second playoff berth in franchise history.
"No I'm not [surprised]," said Showalter, who watched the game from a suite. "I've been coming to Tampa for a while. I don't know what does it have to do with. You're as equipped as everybody else here to weigh in on it. I just know that it's a really good baseball team going to the playoffs again. From a baseball fan, I'd like to see them get a lot more support. They deserve it. But the 12,000 people that were here were very supportive, I can tell you that. They were certainly screaming at me. I kept going back as deep as I could [in the suite] where I could see the game."
Kudos to Rays stars Evan Longoria and David Price, who both brought up the disappointing attendance total.
To put that number in perspective, more than 10,000 people attended the Orioles-New York Yankees spring training game that was played just over the bridge in Tampa.