KANSAS CITY -- Even back on May 23, when the Rays had their biggest lead in the American League East at six games, Joe Maddon wasn't about to get happy. He said it then, and he repeated many times throughout 2010 that he believed the race would go down to the final game of the regular season.
Turns out, the Rays manager was right on the money as the Rays and the Yankees will decide the winner of the division on Sunday.
"I didn't want to necessarily be [a prophet] -- I would have preferred to have the division won," said Maddon, who confessed to scoreboard-watching during the game. "But that's how it's going. ... We'll see what happens."
Using a full complement of pitchers -- tying a team record by using eight in a nine-inning game -- the Rays snapped a three-game losing streak with a 4-0 win over the Royals on Saturday night at Kauffman Stadium with 32,484 watching.
"I was very pleased with us tonight," Maddon said. "The entire bullpen was fabulous, right from [Andy] Sonnanstine to the very end. We got enough hits, came out of the chute really well.
"The one thing I really wanted us to do is perform better offensively earlier in the game. We did that tonight, caught the ball on defense -- more like our game. We were outhit, but we outscored them."
The Yankees defeated Boston, 6-5, in the first game of a doubleheader at Fenway Park. By winning, the Rays (95-66) remained a half-game back of New York.
In the late game, however, the Yankees fell, 7-6, to the Red Sox, moving into a tie with Tampa Bay. The Rays need only to win their final game of the season Sunday against the Royals to win the AL East. Tampa Bay owns the head-to-head tiebreaker by virtue of taking the season series with New York, 10-8, so even if both teams lose the respective final regular-season games, the Rays take the division title.
The Rays got busy early Saturday night. B.J. Upton started things with a one-out infield single and Carl Crawford followed with a single to right to put runners at the corners. With Dan Johnson batting, Crawford stole his 47th base of the season. Johnson then struck out looking to bring Matt Joyce to the plate.
Joyce delivered with a triple to right-center field to put the Rays up, 2-0.
"I thought B.J. going first to third was a big play, that really set things up for us," Maddon said. "Matt jumping on a first-pitch fastball, driving the ball into the gap for a triple ... Again, it was more like our game. It looked more like us tonight."
With two outs in the third, Crawford hit a solo home run off Royals starter Kyle Davies to give him a career-high 19 for the season and Upton added a sacrifice fly in the fifth to give the Rays a 4-0 lead.
"We wanted to jump out to an early lead, and we were able to do that," said Crawford, who extended his career high in RBIs with his 90th of the season. "We've been struggling early in the first few innings and we were able to start off early, and that's what we were able to do."
David Price, who will be the Rays' starter in their first playoff game Wednesday -- though it has not been officially announced -- pitched a scoreless frame in the fifth to remain sharp.
Because Sonnanstine did not go five innings -- which a starter must do to earn the win -- the judgment of the official scorer determined which of the Rays' pitchers got the "W." Had Price somehow managed to earn the victory, he would have notched his 20th win of the season.
Chad Qualls, who followed Sonnanstine, got the win after entering the game with the bases loaded and getting Josh Fields to hit into an inning-ending double play.
"We had one good opportunity -- bases loaded and nobody out -- and we couldn't capitalize on it," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "But besides that, pretty quiet. They did a nice job of keeping us down offensively and not allowing us to create too many opportunities to score runs."
The Rays now look toward their final game of the season to determine their destiny.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.