BALTIMORE — Sure, Evan Longoria was playing in only his fifth game since returning from the disabled list.
But Rays manager Joe Maddon still was not used to glancing at the scoreboard and seeing that his All-Star third baseman had not driven in a run or hit a baseball out of the ballpark this season with his light-tower power.
"I look up at the board right now … just knowing there's going to be some good numbers attached to his name in the very near future," Maddon said before the game with the Orioles.
Longoria erased those zeroes Saturday and played his part as hero again, putting the punch back in the Rays lineup by doubling in a run in the first inning and launching a two-out, three-run homer in the third off Orioles starter Jeremy Guthrie.
The Rays (19-14) followed Longoria's lead, thumping out 15 hits in an 8-2 victory over Baltimore before 18,961 at Camden Yards and tying a club record set in 2004 by winning their seventh straight road game.
Once 0-6 then 1-8, the Rays are now in a virtual tie for first place in the AL East with the Yankees, one back in the loss column.
"Like I said, day after day, the more comfortable I get in the box and the more at-bats I get under my belt, I would like to think that hopefully the numbers start showing up," said Longoria, who missed 26 games with a strained left oblique. "I guess today is a good start."
Centerfielder B.J. Upton blasted a three-run homer and doubled twice. Ben Zobrist extended his hitting streak to 13 games and tied a career high with four hits while scoring three runs. Casey Kotchman (three) and Matt Joyce (two) also had a multihit game.
That kind of support has become commonplace for pitcher Jeremy Hellickson (3-2), who allowed three hits but walked five in five scoreless innings. He worked out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the second but combined with four Rays relievers to walk 10.
"That was really one of the only at-bats I felt real confident in my fastball," Hellickson said of striking out O's shortstop Robert Andino with the bases jammed. " … Other than that, I had to fight through pretty much everything. I really didn't have a feel for any of my three pitches."
Maddon blamed Hellickson's lack of command on having to pitch on two extra days' rest. But two Web gems by leftfielder Sam Fuld, who went 0-for-5, saved three runs and maybe the game.
Fuld ended the fourth with a diving catch toward the leftfield line to hijack a run-scoring hit from Andino. Fuld then reached over the fence into the first row to rob catcher Matt Wieters of a two-run homer in the eighth.
"I have to contribute somehow," said Fuld, who's mired in a 2-for-40 slump. "I'm certainly not doing it with the bat."
Fuld managed to keep the bats alive while Longoria was out of the lineup, but there's no telling what will happen once the Rays slugger gets more comfortable at the plate.
"It's tough to come off the DL and come in and make an immediate impact, especially when you haven't seen that much live pitching," Upton said of Longoria. "He's a great athlete, and I think he's a great baseball player, and he's obviously showing it right now."
It doesn't take Longoria long to change the scoreboard.
"It was just a matter time before he got a couple of big knocks," Maddon said.