ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - When Major League Baseball decided to add a second wild-card team, it hoped to add excitement.
In the first season of the expanded postseason, the Baltimore Orioles have qualified for the postseason, but as the final day of the regular season dawns, they still don't know where they're playing.
The Orioles kept their slim hopes for an American League East championship alive thanks to Chris Davis and Miguel Gonzalez on Tuesday night.
Davis hit a gargantuan home run and Gonzalez pitched two-hit ball for 6 1/3 innings as the Orioles beat the Tampa Bay Rays 1-0 before 13,460 at Tropicana Field.
Nearly two hours after the Orioles' win, the New York Yankees beat the Boston Red Sox 4-3 in 12 innings. The Orioles must win today and hope the Yankees lose to the Red Sox to force a one-game playoff on Thursday in Baltimore.
Otherwise, the Orioles play in the Wild Card Game. Their win gave them a half-game lead over Oakland. The Athletics played Texas late Tuesday.
Tampa Bay's James Shields was simply wonderful. He broke a team record by striking out 15 in a complete game, but lost on a record-tying home run by Davis.
After Shields (15-10) breezed through the first 11 batters, Davis hit his 33rd home run in the fourth. It was the sixth straight game that Davis had homered in, tying a club record set by Reggie Jackson in 1976.
While Shields was dominant, Gonzalez (9-4) was brilliantly effective. He allowed two singles to the Rays (89-72). Brian Matusz, Darren O'Day and Jim Johnson pitched hitless ball for the vital win.
"Strike out 15, go nine and get the loss, you don't see that very often," Davis said.
Shields, who gave up just one other hit, a sixth-inning single to J.J. Hardy, became the first pitcher since at least 1918 who allowed two or fewer hits, no walks and strike out 15 or more to lose.
"That's probably the best-pitched game that we've had pitched against us all year. To have only that many pitches and strike out that many guys, I can only think of one mistake he made all night, and fortunately Chris was on it," manager Buck Showalter said.
Gonzalez continues his quiet mastery. He walked two and struck out seven.
"I was like, 'He's doing great. I've got to do better than him,'" Gonzalez said.
While he wasn't as spectacular, he was more effective. No Tampa Bay batter reached third.
Johnson earned his 51st save with a hitless ninth.
"I know there are a bunch of different scenarios. We have to come out tomorrow and play with the same aggression we had today and grind it out and see what happens tomorrow," Johnson said.
The Orioles (93-68) lost on Monday night, 5-3 to Tampa Bay, and Showalter rejected the theory that the team bounced back.
"I think this time of the year, there's not a bounce back. It's a show up the next day. The ball quits bouncing here pretty soon and you've got a chair at the dance, but you'd like to improve your chances if you can keep winning," he said.
NOTES: Showalter named Chris Tillman (9-2, 2.78) the starter for today against the Rays' Jeremy Hellickson (9-11, 3.20). "It's exciting. I've just got to take it like it's another one, though. I can't put too much pressure on myself. It's not fair to me and it's not fair to my team. I've just got to go out there and kind of keep what I've been doing," Tillman said. ... Jason Hammel reported his right knee was fine and he'll be available to pitch this weekend if the Orioles play in the Divisional Series. ... Showalter and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette will meet this morning to discuss the postseason roster.