ST. PETERSBURG — Rookie Wil Myers had the loudest, longest and, based on his follow-through, most entertaining hit of the day for the Rays. Sam Fuld had the most essential, singling in the go-ahead run as they hung on for another tense victory, 4-3 over the Giants on Sunday afternoon at a soldout Tropicana Field.
But Evan Longoria had, potentially, the most significant, a fifth-inning single that not only tied the score but freed the Rays' best and most important hitter from the "rock-bottom" shackles of an 0-for-19 slump that stretched back to Monday in Boston.
"It felt like forever," Longoria said.
Having tipped his cap to the dugout after lining out in the first inning on the best swing he'd taken all week, Longoria allowed himself a breath, or actually a sigh, of relief when he actually got to first after singling in Fuld.
"It was everything," Longoria said. "It was relief in general."
Also, a souvenir. He kept the ball from the otherwise uneventful 762nd hit of his career.
The Rays certainly welcomed Longoria's contribution, as they've done pretty well over the past six weeks with little from him. Sunday's win was the 25th in their past 31 games, pushing them to a season high-matching 21 games over .500 at 66-45 and keeping them within a game of the American League East-leading Red Sox.
Myers gave the Rays a 2-1 lead in the first with a thunderous homer to left, estimated at 400 feet, on a mistake from Giants starter Guillermo Moscoso. "A curveball up," Myers said. "It's a good pitch to hit."
Making it more interesting was his follow-through, preceding his standard bat flip with a kick of his right leg, the product, he said, of losing his balance.
"I'm not really sure what that was," he said. "Kind of different. … That was a new one."
Starter Roberto Hernandez couldn't hold the lead, part of the reason he lasted only 4 2/3 innings before manager Joe Maddon went to the bullpen brigade of Alex Torres (who got the win), Jake McGee, Joel Peralta and Fernando Rodney.
Tied in the sixth, the Rays had Yunel Escobar at second with two outs and Fuld, a lefty swinger, going to the plate vs. Giants lefty Jose Mijares. With Fuld playing centerfield in place of injured Desmond Jennings, Maddon didn't have much option anyway but was confident in letting Fuld, with a .324 average vs. lefties, take a shot.
"A tepid kind of a matchup," Maddon said.
Fuld, whose comfort was increased by having played in Venezuela with Mijares, knowing his curveball eventually breaks over the plate, took advantage of the opportunity, logging his first go-ahead RBI since June 18, 2011.
"Sammy," Maddon said, "is always ready."
Longoria's slump extended beyond the 0-for, as he hit just .171 over his previous 32 games and had struck out at least once in 23 straight. On Saturday, during some extra early batting practice, he told hitting coach Derek Shelton, "I think I've hit rock-bottom. This is probably the worst that I've been in a long time. I've gone through slumps before, but the swinging and missing is what was baffling me."
Sunday looked different from the start, as he lined a ball to left and flied to shallow center, Maddon noticing the familiar "little whippy thing at the end of his swing."
Longoria said it felt that way, too.
"One game doesn't really tell the story of everything, but my at-bats (Sunday) overall were so much better than they've been," he said. "And with two strikes I wasn't swinging and missing, so that was a step in the right direction."
One he, and the Rays, hope continues in Arizona on Tuesday.
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @TBTimes_Rays.