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10/30/08 1:20 AM EST

Rays not hanging their heads after loss

Club is proud of its accomplishments, reaching Fall Classic

PHILADELPHIA -- Losing is never easy when you believe in a dream. Rays players believed in the dream right up until the end, so Wednesday night's 4-3 loss in the continuation of Game 5 of the World Series stung.

But heads were held high in the losing clubhouse as the Rays looked forward to the future of the franchise.

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"Unfortunately, this is where it ends for us this year," Carlos Pena said. "At the same time, we all have to be very smart, very intelligent to look back at this season we were a part of. It was magical -- it really was. And I feel privileged to have experienced this year with these guys, who were such great teammates.

"We're a family, because that's what we are, so even though I'm extremely disappointed, at the same time, we don't want to waste too much time focusing on that. Instead, we just say, 'Thank you God for letting us get to this point' -- where we actually were able to experience defeat in the World Series, where so many have not even done that."

The Rays' magical journey saw them make the trip from 10 straight losing seasons in warp speed to the World Series, overcoming one obstacle after the next until they finally came up short Wednesday night.

"Regardless of the outcome, obviously, we wanted to come and play the game hard," said American League Rookie of the Year candidate Evan Longoria, who played such a large role in the team's turnaround. "I think we did that. I don't really feel like, as a club, we have anything to be ashamed of. Somebody has to win and somebody has to lose. I think we went out there and represented the AL pretty good and played our best. They just beat us."

Longoria noted the Phillies had a well-rounded effort in taking the series.

"They did everything pretty well," Longoria said. "They started clicking pretty well, especially when they got home. It helps a lot playing in this place. It's a pretty tough environment to play in. They get rolling a little bit, and [when] the crowd gets behind them, they get a little tougher."

J.P. Howell, who took the loss, sat in front of his locker with his head in his hands for a long time before finally talking to reporters.

"This is the worst way to go out, man," Howell said. "You have a shot to get a ring. ... Now it makes it where we have to work hard and get back here again next year. So much hard work went into this season. And here we are. We came really close, which was really good for us, really good for anybody. But you know we need to remember this and go from there."

Scott Kazmir said it felt like all of the players on the team "inspired each other."

"We knew what situation we were in," Kazmir said. "We knew what we had, and we just came together as a team. That's what made us as good as what we were this year. We came together as a team. We're like family. We really are. We do things outside of the clubhouse together and what not. So it's tough."

Carl Crawford said just "going through the playoffs" was the most fun part of the Rays' journey.

"We've never been there before," Crawford said. "It was just nice to go through the whole experience; it was fun. For the most part, it just made you feel like a kid again. So that's what I enjoyed for the most part."

Longoria said the Rays felt no adverse effects from the odd nature of the condensed game Wednesday night.

"I felt as comfortable and calm as I ever have in the box, and I think everyone was in their best condition to play baseball and as ready as they could be," said Longoria, who noted that the fact the season was over has not yet sunk in. "I feel like we're going back home to play some more baseball. But like I said, we've got nothing to be ashamed of. We were one of the last two teams playing. And so that's all you can really hope for -- play your best."

Rocco Baldelli called losing Wednesday night "kind of a dull feeling."

"You just kind of sit there, different thoughts are going through your head," Baldelli said. "The season's over. It's a sad moment in a way, because I don't really want this season to end. It's been as much fun as I've had playing baseball. I'd like to come back tomorrow and play another game."

While the Rays were not able to ride the dream all the way to a championship, there is a lot to look forward to for their future.

"We hope this is just the start for us," Longoria said. "This was a magical season for us, a lot of firsts for the franchise. With the core group of guys that we have and as many young players as we have that have the potential to come back and be superstars, we hope that this happens a lot more often."

Typically, manager Joe Maddon found the sunshine in Wednesday night's loss. The Rolling Stones aficionado smiled when he was asked which Stones song -- "Happy" or "Shattered" -- fit his mood.

"'Happy,' man -- absolutely no question," Maddon said. "This has been a remarkable year for us on so many different levels, to get to this point. Very few people in this country or throughout the baseball world would have even guessed that we could get here. I'm very proud of our guys as a group. Really a truly remarkable job. We made a powerful statement. It's just the beginning."

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.