ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Evan Longoria’s flair for the dramatic on the final night of the season ended Baltimore’s bid to force a one-game tiebreaker for the AL East title.
Instead, the Orioles were left to begin their first playoff appearance in 15 years on the road against two-time defending league champion Texas.
Longoria homered three times and the Tampa Bay Rays shut down the Orioles, 4-1, Wednesday night at Tropicana Field, where Longoria also ended last season with a bang.
Baltimore began the day one game behind the New York Yankees in the division. The Orioles needed a win, plus a loss by the Yankees to Boston, to pull even.
New York cruised to a 14-2 rout of the Red Sox and finished two games ahead of the Orioles, earning its 13th division crown in 17 years. The Yankees had a 10-game lead on July 18 but Baltimore caught up Sept. 4 and the teams tied 10 times in September.
‘‘We knew it was a long shot, but we ran into some really good pitching,’’ Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. ‘‘I've got to tip my hat to them, and what is really kind of amazing is that you look over there with what they've been able to do this year, win 90 games.’’
The loss sent the Orioles to Texas, where they'll play the Rangers on Friday night, with the winner advancing to the best-of-five division series against the New York Yankees.
‘‘We’re going to take it one game at a time. Obviously if you lose, you’re done,’’ said Orioles slugger Chris Davis, who had homered in six straight games. ‘‘We’re going to try to do everything we can to beat Texas and get back home.’’
Longoria finished the season in dramatic fashion for the second straight year, hitting solo shots off Chris Tillman in the first and fourth innings and adding another solo drive off Jake Arrieta in the sixth.
With a chance to tie the major league record of four homers in a game, the three-time All-Star who missed 85 games this year with a strained left hamstring grounded out in the eighth.
‘‘It was cool,’’ Longoria said. ‘‘That’s about as fun a night as you can have in a ballgame.’’
‘‘I just think it highlights how well we play in Games 162,’’ Rays manager Joe Maddon said. ‘‘It was a very dramatic game, the way it all unfolded. I just like the idea that we played the last game of the season with that kind of effort and intensity.’’