ST. PETERSBURG — Walking off the field after Monday's game, possibly his worst in the big leagues, Evan Longoria had reason to hang his head. He'd been hitless at the plate and made a costly error in the field and an inexcusable mistake on the bases.
Walking off was a little different Tuesday, as Longoria redeemed himself by hitting a home run leading off the ninth inning that gave the Rays a thrilling 4-3 win over the Reds.
"It's always exciting to hit a walkoff," Longoria said. "There's really no feeling like ending the game and knowing that when you touch home that it's over.
"It actually was pretty surreal. It was something I felt like I hadn't done in a long time to be able to contribute in a way like that. So it was a good feeling."
Longoria's dramatics, which pushed the Rays' record to 45-35 and kept them within 21/2 games of first place, made up for a lot before a crowd of 20,894 at Tropicana Field, giving the Rays their fifth walkoff and 14th come-from-behind win of the season.
David Price had a stellar start, perfect into the fifth and striking out a career-high-tying 12 by mixing an overpowering fastball with an extremely effective changeup. "No-hit stuff," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. But after giving up three hits in the eighth, he turned a 1-0 lead from Johnny Damon's homer into a 2-1 deficit, and he flipped the ball toward the Rays dugout in disgust. "Frustrating," Price said.
After the Rays rallied right back to go up 3-2, on singles by John Jaso and Sam Fuld and a perfectly placed blooper by Damon that caromed off diving leftfielder Chris Heisey's glove for a double, closer Kyle Farnsworth blew just his second save in 18 chances by allowing just his second home run, a leadoff blast to Jay Bruce that made it 3-3. "No ill words," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "Kyle's been money all year."
Longoria, chirping in the dugout before Tuesday's game about how it was "a new day," was first up in the ninth against ground ball specialist Logan Ondrusek.
In the tunnel leading to the dugout, B.J. Upton predicted a quick resolution.
"B.J. Upton is definitely psychic," Damon said. "He said, 'We don't have to worry about it; Longo is going deep right here.' "
Monday's mess-ups aside, Longoria was coming off a monster weekend series in Houston in which he didn't take batting practice and didn't wear batting gloves and went 8-for-14 with 10 RBIs. He was trying to keep that going but conceded after his second at-bat Tuesday that he had to slip the gloves back on.
"I didn't have a choice," he said. "My hands were hurting too much."
He swung at Ondrusek's first pitch, then laced the second over the leftfield wall for the third walkoff homer of his career and his fifth home run in his past eight games (after hitting only five in his first 44).
"It's just the type of player he is," Price said. "He's that lethal, that deadly especially late in games. He wants to be at the plate at that time, and I guarantee everybody in this clubhouse wants him up there, too."
As bad as Monday was, Longoria was right about something. "As you can see," he said. "I tried to block it out."
Said Maddon: "That's what a pro does."
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]