- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 29, 2010

ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. (AP) - Securing the second playoff berth in franchise history is just a start for the Tampa Bay Rays.

The AL East title is still on the line, and so is the best record in the league. Both could be critical to getting back to the World Series.

“Everybody knows how well we play at home, so we want to open up here, that’s for sure,” 19-game winner David Price said after pitching eight strong innings in Tuesday night’s 5-0 clincher over the Baltimore Orioles. “If I throw that first game, this is where I want to throw it.”

The Rays, who made an improbable run to the World Series two years ago with Price coming out of the bullpen to close out their pennant-clinching win over Boston, retained a half-game lead over the New York Yankees in the division.


Meanwhile, the Yankees also clinched a playoff spot with a 6-1 victory over Toronto.

“It’s different this year. I’m already looking forward to the next goal, and that’s a good thing. It gets to the point where you expect to be in the playoffs on an annual basis,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said amid the celebration.

“The first time we talked about the magical moment, and I’m not saying it isn’t still magical, but it’s a little more pragmatic in a sense the second time through. I’m exalted in that moment, but immediately I’m already thinking about what happens next.”

The magic number to clinch their second AL East crown in three years is any combination of four Rays wins and Yankees losses. Tampa Bay owns the tiebreaker after winning the season series between the clubs 10-8.

Winning the division would mean starting the playoffs at home. Finishing with the AL’s top record, which the Rays currently hold, would mean homefield advantage in the AL championship series as well.

“This is a tough division, so whenever you can get to the playoffs you know you earned it,” All-Star Carl Crawford said.

“Tonight, enjoy this accomplishment,” Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said. “Tomorrow, we’ll get back to work.”

Price scattered six hits over eight innings and allowed only one runner past second base. The young left-hander struck out eight and walked none after agonizing much of the day over a critical comment he posted Monday night on Twitter, blasting the low attendance _ 12,446 _ for a potential clinching game Tampa Bay lost to Baltimore.

“That was a nightmare. I knew if I didn’t throw well, I was going to be done” with the fans, Price said.

“All day. Everything that led up to it was terrible,” Price added. “We want more fans here, obviously. We love our fans that come, that’s not what I was saying last night.”

Tuesday’s crowd was announced as 17,891 _ still about 5,000 below the Rays’ season average _ but Price expressed his appreciation during an on-field interview, repeatedly saying: “Thank you, Thank you,” and waving his hat to the cheering fans.

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