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For starters, Rays at Astros

Update 1:05 p.m. Manager Joe Maddon said the fact Evan Longoria is in the lineup three straight days means he's feeling good, and could be getting closer to returning to the field.


When that will be remains to be see, especially with the Rays opening a 10-game homestand on the turf at Tropicana Field. But Maddon said just having Longoria in lineup is huge for the offense.

• Maddon continued his praise of SS Yunel Escobar, who has played 41 straight errorless games, while playing some spectacular plays. "I'd like to see a shortstop who is playing better," Maddon said.

• Maddon said Kelly Johnson has been impressive at third base - a "natural" - despite making his first big-league start there just last month. Johnson said he's getting more confident, but is just keeping it simple.

• Maddon said it's been fun to watch the "ascension" of C Jose Lobaton, who has three hits in each of his last two games, and his .311 batting average since April 25 is fourth among big league catchers behind Yadier Molina, Buster Posey and Salvador Perez.

• RHP Jeff Niemann (right shoulder surgery), a Houston native, made a visit to the Rays clubhouse earlier this morning. Teammate say he's doing well, and staying positive, though he feels a bit isolated doing his rehab in Arlington.

Developing: The Rays will wrap up a four-game series with the Astros in a Fourth of July matinee today at Minute Maid Park.

Tampa Bay had its four-game winning streak snapped last night in a 4-1 loss to Houston, but it has still won seven of its last 10 and will start a 10-game homestand Friday to lead into the All-Star break.

Evan Longoria is back at DH, where he will be for the forseeable future, as he's dealing with plantar fasciitis in his right foot. Kelly Johnson is at third base, where he's played really well defensively in filling in for Longoria.

RHP Chris Archer will start on the mound, hoping to copy the pitch-efficiency shown by LHP David Price in Tuesday's seven-strikeout, 70-pitch, seven inning outing.

The Rays are 4-11 all tiem on Fourth of July, and only 1-8 on the road.

Rays lineup
Jennings cf
Joyce lf
Zobrist 2b
Longoria dh
Loney 1b
Myers rf
Johnson 3b
Lobaton c
Escobar ss,
Archer rhp


[Last modified: Thursday, July 4, 2013 2:45pm]


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