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."

A record-setting day for Tom Brady

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A record-setting day for Tom Brady

There was no postseason clunker for Tom Brady Sunday. In fact, his performance Sunday was one of the best of his NFL record 24 playoff wins. 

PATRIOTS 33, STEELERS 9

Brady completed 32 of 42 passes for 384 yards and three touchdowns with no turnovers. His passing yard total is a Patriots postseason record. 

No. 12’s dominance helped Chris Hogan set a Patriots postseason record with 180 receiving yards on nine catches. Two of his grabs went for touchdowns, including a 39-yard touchdown on a flea-flicker in the second quarter. 

The previous Pats' postseason record was held by Deion Branch, who had 153 receiving yards in the Patriots' divisional round loss to the Broncos in the 2005 season.

Hogan’s performance ranks tied for 17th all-time in terms of receiving yards in a postseason game. The record is still safely held by former Bills receiver Eric Moulds, who had 240 receiving yards on Jan. 2, 1999 in a loss to the Dolphins. 

Hogan wasn’t the only Pats receiver to finish with gaudy numbers. Julian Edelman had eight catches for 118 yards and a touchdown. 

Game notes: Patriots 36, Steelers 17

Game notes: Patriots 36, Steelers 17

FOXBORO -- Notes from the Patriots' 36-17 victory over the Steelers in the AFC Championship Game:

PATRIOTS 33, STEELERS 9

-- The Patriots are headed to their ninth Super Bowl, most in NFL history. The Cowboys, Broncos and Steelers have each been to eight.

-- The Patriots are now 9-4 in AFC Championship Games, including 6-1 in games played in Foxboro and 5-1 at Gillette Stadium.

-- The Patriots are now 3-0 against the Steelers in AFC Championship Games, and 4-1 overall against Pittsburgh in the playoffs.

-- The Patriots are 31-19 in postseason games, including 20-4 at home (3-1 at Schaefer/Sullivan/Foxboro Stadium, 17-3 at Gillette).

-- The Patriots won their 31st postseason game tonight, moving them past the 49ers into fourth place on the list of all-time playoff victories in NFL history. They trail the Cowboys (34), Steelers (34) and Packers (32).

 -- The Patriots' .620 winning percentage (31-19) in postseason games is now second-best in NFL history, behind the Ravens (15-8, .652). The Packers' loss today drops them to third (34-22, .607).

-- The Patriots have now won eight conference championships with Robert Kraft as owner, setting an NFL for most conference titles in the Super Bowl. Kraft had been tied with the Denver Broncos' Pat Bowler at seven.

-- Bill Belichick is now 25-10 in postseason games as a head coach and is in a tie with Bill Walsh (10-4) for third place on the NFL list of best postseason coaching winning percentage. Vince Lombardi (9-1, .900) is in first place and Tom Flores (8-3. .727) is second.

-- Belichick is advancing to his seventh Super Bowl as a head coach, most in NFL history. He had been tied with Don Shula at six. Belichick's Super Bowl record is 4-2, Shula's is 2-4.

-- Tom Brady had his ninth three-touchdown-pass postseason game, tying Joe Montana for the NFL record.

-- Stephen Gostkowski, who entered the game with 142 career postseason points, scored 12 points today and moved past Gary Anderson into third place on the NFL's all-time list of kicking points in the postseason. Adam Vinatieri (234) is first and David Akers (175) is second.