Longoria's three bombs send O's to play-in game

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Longoria's three bombs send O's to play-in game

From Comcast SportsNet

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- 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 were 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, and that tells you what a fine line there is in all those extra-inning games and one-run losses, and we could be in the same position they are."

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."

Longoria's second career three-homer game came a year after he hit two of them of the final night of last season, including a 12th-inning, game-ending shot that clinched a postseason berth. The area beyond a short wall in the left-field corner where the biggest homer in franchise history landed is now called 162 Landing.

"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."

Ryan Roberts also homered for the Rays in the fourth against Tillman (9-3).

Jeremy Hellickson (10-11) allowed one hit -- Adam Jones' fourth-inning single -- in 5 1-3 innings. Jake McGee, Wade Davis, Joel Peralta and Fernando Rodney teamed up to hold the Orioles to two hits -- J.J. Hardy's double and Matt Wieters' single, both in the ninth inning -- the rest of the way.

Jones ruined Tampa Bay's shot at a 16th shutout with a sacrifice fly off Peralta. After Wieters singled, Rodney was summoned to get the final out for his 48th save in 50 opportunities.

Davis, who tied an Orioles record when he homered for the sixth straight game in a 1-0 win over Tampa Bay on Tuesday night, went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts.

Baltimore had five hits in the final two games of the regular season, but Jones is confident the offense will bounce back for the club's first postseason game since 1997.

"We ain't got no choice. You don't hit, you go home," Jones said. "It's no ifs, buts or maybes. Both teams know that."

Longoria has homered in five of his last seven plate appearances in the final game of the season. In four career Game 162s, he is 8 for 15 with six homers and nine RBIs.

"Sometimes you've got to give credit where credit is due. He put some good swings on some pitches, but I should have been better," Tillman said. "I knew what I needed to do. I just didn't get it done."

Longoria is 6 for 12 with three homers against Tillman, who lasted five innings and allowed three runs on four hits in his first loss since Kansas City beat him on Aug. 11. The right-hander who had gone 3-0 with a 1.20 ERA over his previous five starts also allowed three homers in that game, matching his career high.

The Rays (90-72) won 12 of 14 down the stretch, remaining in contention for the second AL wild card until the 160th game and finished with at least 90 wins for the third straight season.

Hellickson allowed three baserunners, two of them in the fourth inning when Jones singled to right-center after Davis struck out on a wild pitch that allowed him to reach first. The 2011 AL Rookie of the Year walked Manny Machado leading off the sixth and was replaced by McGee after getting the next batter, Nate McLouth, to pop out.

"The big tip of the cap goes to Joe Maddon and the Rays. They played 162," Jones said. "Their players went out every game to the last one and gave it all they've got."

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Ross Mahoney: Recently re-signed Chritstian Djoos could compete for a spot on Caps

Ross Mahoney: Recently re-signed Chritstian Djoos could compete for a spot on Caps

CHICAGO—After spending the past two seasons honing his game in American Hockey League, Capitals prospect Christian Djoos could get the opportunity of a lifetime come September.

Djoos, who was re-signed on Thursday, is one of a handful of blue line prospects the Caps hope will compete for playing time in the NHL next season.

“His hockey IQ is extremely high,” assistant general manager Ross Mahoney said. “He has really good skill. He moves the puck really well. It was pretty evident by the points he put up this year in the American league.”

Djoos, a 22-year-old selected in the seventh round of the 2012 draft, did indeed put up big numbers playing for the Bears. In 66 games, he posted 13 goals and 58 points—the third highest total among AHL defensemen. The players who finished ahead of him—T.J. Brennan and Matt Taormina are longtime minor league vets.  

As impressive as Djoos' offensive production was, though, Mahoney and Co. are equally as intrigued by his ability to make smart decisions under pressure and quickly transition the puck from the backend.

“He’s really, really intelligent,” Mahoney said. “Sees the ice really well. Finds the open man. Can speed the game up, slow the game down.”

The one concern about Djoos—as it's always been—is his size and how it'll affect his ability to battle bigger NHL forwards in the corner and in front of the net. He’s listed at 6 feet, 164-pounds. For comparison’s sake, the lightest players on Washington's roster last season were backup goalie Philipp Grubauer (182 pounds) and wingers Justin Williams (188) and T.J. Oshie (189). The lightest defenseman was Taylor Chorney, who at 191-pounds was the only D under 200-pounds.

So, yeah, Djoos has some work to do in that department.  

“The challenge for him still is to get physically strong,” Mahoney said. “He’s getting there, so we’ll see after another good summer of training and see where he’s at come the fall.”

Depending on what happens in the free agent and trade markets, there figures to be an opportunity—or perhaps even two—waiting for a prospect like Djoos when the team convenes for training camp in mid-September.

After puck-moving defenseman Nate Schmidt was plucked by Las Vegas in the expansion draft on Wednesday night, the Caps were left with only four defensemen under contract (Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik, John Carlson and Chorney) for next season. There’s also Dmitry Orlov, a restricted free agent the Caps intend to sign, but that still leaves a couple of openings.

Asked which blue line prospects are closest to being ready for NHL duty, Mahoney, in an interview with CSN on Thursday, named Djoos and his Hershey teammates Madison Bowey and Tyler Lewington.

“But,” Mahoney said, “it’s up to them to make sure they have a good summer of training, on and off the ice, and then come in and show the coaches that they deserve to be there.”

MORE CAPITALS: The Caps' 2017-2018 schedule

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How Wizards can acquire pick (and from whom) in tonight's NBA draft

How Wizards can acquire pick (and from whom) in tonight's NBA draft

When a team doesn't have any draft picks, as is the case with the Wizards going into tonight, it can buy its way in from teams that are overloaded with too many.

The Wizards shipped their No. 52 selection to the New Orleans Pelicans late Wednesday for Tim Frazier, banking on him being better than any of the options expected to be available. League sources told CSNmidatlantic.com that they'll be actively pursuing another pick for tonight's event that begins at 7 p.m. ET.

But there are several teams that are bogged down with picks. The Philadelphia 76ers, who have the No. 1 overall selection, also have four second-rounders.

The Boston Celtics, who traded down to No. 3 overall in a deal with the Sixers a week ago, have three second-round picks. 

It's simple math for NBA teams. There's a cap on the size of the roster they can carry during the offseason (20) and when the regular season begins (15 + two "two-way" players). The offseason roster includes free agents signed after the draft -- often for little or no guaranteed money -- to attend summer league play in July and training camp in September.

The Sixers have nine guaranteed contracts for 2017-18 and four non-guaranteed deals to decide on. 

[RELATED: 5 things to know about new Wizards point guard Tim Frazier]

Not intrigued by what they saw left on the board when they were set to pick 46th in 2014, the Wizards sold their spot to the L.A. Lakers for $1.8 million. Russ Smith, Cameron Bairstow, Devyn Marble and Cory Jefferson were among the players who were drafted in the next 14 picks which speaks to how difficult it is to find a player who can actually contribute this deep. 

Frazier was available but went undrafted out of Penn State. Tyler Johnson and Langston Galloway also weren't chosen but currently are firmly planted in the NBA. 

In the 2017 collective bargaining agreement, teams were given a bump from $3.6 million to $5.1 million for cash transactions per season that a team can send or receive. This money can be used to buy picks.

In the 2016 draft, for instance, the Golden State Warriors purchased the No. 38 pick from the Milwaukee Bucks to take Patrick McCaw who came off the bench to make key plays in Game 5 of their NBA championship win earlier this month. The move cost $2.4 million.

Tonight, the Sixers' four second-round picks fall from Nos. 36-50; the Celtics own Nos. 37, 53 and 56; the Orlando Magic have Nos. 33 and 35; the Atlanta Hawks hold Nos. 41 and 60; the Utah Jazz have Nos. 42 and 55; the Knicks own Nos. 44 and 58; the Houston Rockets have Nos. 43 and 45; and the Denver Nuggets possess Nos. 49 and 51.

[RELATED: Reasons why dealing for Tim Frazier works for Wizards]