ST. PETERSBURG -- James Shields recently took a moment to look back at what happened in 2011, including the moment the Rays knew they had a chance to complete their September surge and overtake the Red Sox to secure the American League Wild Card berth.
"When we swept Boston [in three games in St. Petersburg]," Shields said. "That was our key moment. When you're gaining three games in three days, that's a substantial gain."
Shields noted that what happened never would have happened had the Orioles not made the choice to "not give up." The Red Sox played the Orioles seven times in their final 10 games, and the Orioles won five times, including the game on the final day of the season.
"They could easily have given up," he said. "I was telling some of the guys in the food room that maybe that was good karma for them last year, playing the game the right way, and now all of a sudden this year, they're in it. And that just kind of shows you what kind of character [the Orioles] have."
When asked if he thought it was strange to see the Orioles still in contention, Shields smiled.
"To be honest with you, for me, ever since I've been in the Major Leagues, they've been a great hitting team," he said. "I mean, as far as I'm concerned, they've always been one of the best hitting teams in the Major Leagues. They just never had the pitching. But this year their bullpen has been phenomenal. Their starting pitching has been coming around. They've had some very good starts by their starters."
Jennings out of Sunday's lineup, plans to play vs. O's
ST. PETERSBURG -- Desmond Jennings did not play on Saturday, and he was not in Sunday's lineup due to tightness in his lower back.
"It's all right, it's better," Jennings said. "It's something I'm trying to figure out. [I'll] start doing some stuff to loosen up."
Jennings said the tightness began "a day or two" before Thursday's off-day.
"I didn't think anything of it," he said. "Just figured it's a little tight.
"I feel it swinging a little bit. It's just one of those things that, I don't know, man, swinging ... I felt it tighten up running a little bit. I've been doing some things to get it right, to get it loose."
The Rays fly to Baltimore on Monday to begin a three-game series against the Orioles before heading to New York to play the Yankees next weekend. Jennings plans to work out at Tropicana Field prior to the team's departure. Included in his workout will be hitting and "rotation stuff," in his words.
Jennings has not had an MRI.
"It's all right," he said. "It's nothing serious. So I plan on playing Tuesday."
Longoria OK physically but dealing with mental fatigue
ST. PETERSBURG -- Evan Longoria might be rested physically after missing much of the season because of a partially torn left hamstring, but mentally, the 2012 season has been a grind.
The third baseman recently noted that he's far more mentally drained at this point than he was during any of his previous seasons in the Majors.
"The monotony and the repetition of playing every day, you don't even really think about it," Longoria said. "It's just what you do. You train for it and you get your body in shape for it and you play. And the two years that I've had when I was pretty healthy ... I'm more tired now just having to sit around and mentally dote on what I could or couldn't have done and how I'm progressing. That stuff weighs on you more than actually going out and playing every day."
Although he did a lot of physical work preparing to make his return on Aug. 7, Longoria said that being in baseball shape is different.
"We worked hard for about a month and a half before I came back," he said. "It's just a different kind of ... You can't really compare the two. It's gym work as compared to baseball shape. That's what we always say -- we kind of play our way into baseball shape during Spring Training.
"Unless you're playing baseball, you can't do it. You can run all you want. You can lift all you want. But it's just nine innings of being on your feet wearing cleats, standing around in the heat, running 90 feet, stopping. Stuff you can't do unless you're doing it."
Carlos Pena's next strikeout will tie his club record of 166, which he set in 2008. Entering Sunday's game, his 165 K's ranked third in the Majors. Adam Dunn of the White Sox is first, with 194, and Curtis Granderson of the Yankees ranks second, with 168.
After striking out 11 on Saturday night, Chris Archer has accrued 25 K's in his first three Major League starts. According to Elias, Archer is one of two pitchers to do this in the last 25 years, joining the Nationals' Stephen Strasburg, who had 32 in 2010. Archer is the first American League pitcher to accomplish the feat since Al Leiter fanned 25 for the Yankees in 1987.
Heading into Sunday's contest, Rays pitchers had totaled at least 13 strikeouts in three straight games, a club record, making them the first AL team in more than 10 years to put up such a streak. The Yankees did so from May 17-19, 2002.
The Second Annual Mystery Ball, staged on Saturday by hitting coach Derek Shelton's wife, Alison, along with the Rays Wives Association, raised $34,000. The event benefited St. Petersburg's All Children's Hospital.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.