While the Rays entered Sunday's finale nine games over .500 and appeared to be traveling in the opposite direction of the struggling O's, both squads were expected by national pundits and media outlets to frequent familiar territory this season as the American League East bottom dwellers.
"Expectations are one thing and doing it is the other," O's manager Dave Trembley said. "I'm sure if you talk to [Rays manager] Joe Maddon and his club, his expectations are probably contrary to what the public's expectations are, and I kind of feel the same way."
The O's skipper said the red-hot Rays may have taken some people by surprise, but those who have done their baseball homework could see the shift coming. During his tenure managing Triple-A Ottawa, Trembley said he was able to see firsthand the Rays' enviable farm system, chock full of young, talented players who came up through the system together.
"With all due respect, I think people sometimes get caught up in reputation of teams and what they are and what they haven't been," Trembley said. "You got to do your homework. There's a lot of good teams in baseball. There's a lot of teams in baseball that are going to get better. The pendulum's going to start swinging, and it's going to start swinging in the direction of some of these lesser-known teams."
While Baltimore has been around decades longer than Tampa Bay, the O's are no stranger to rough patches and have endured losing seasons for the past 10 years. Under Andy MacPhail, the O's president of baseball operations who took over during the 2007 season, the Birds have begun to replenish a depleted farm system and shoot for the long-term stability also preached by the Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman.
Devoid of major market money and big-name superstars, both squads are going back to a pure formula for success: good pitching, solid defense and timely hitting.
"We got two of the three ingredients that you need in order to be successful," Trembley said. "We've lost games because we haven't had timely hitting, but the pitching, the defense has allowed us to compete. And [the Rays] have had all three going for a while, and that's what's allowed them to win a majority of their games, especially at home."
Brittany Ghiroli is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.