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Misplay in center helps Tampa Bay Rays' Evan Longoria get first inside-the-park home run

BALTIMORE — Rays 3B Evan Longoria's last inside-the-park home run came in Little League … before Sunday.

"There weren't fences," he said. "You hit one over the guy's head and just run until you can't run anymore."

Longoria accomplished the feat in Sunday's 9-6 win over Baltimore, hustling for a two-run homer off RHP Jeremy Accardo in the eighth inning to become the ninth Ray to do so, and first since Carl Crawford on July 20, 2009.

The play started with a hard liner to center that knuckled from right to left, fooling Orioles CF Adam Jones. Longoria initially saw Jones' glove up and thought it would just be a single. But it ended up getting past Jones, rolling to the wall, and Longoria went for broke.

"As soon as I saw it take a left turn, I just put my head down and ran," Longoria said. "I was pretty much committed to going home, there wasn't any slowing me down around third."

Third-base coach Tom Foley waved Longoria in, and though he was "out of gas," he beat the relay throw with a feet-first slide, smiling all the way to the dugout.

"I had a shot at it," Jones said. "I just missed the ball."

START IT UP: With a leadoff homer Sunday, DH Johnny Damon tied a club record for consecutive games reaching base safely (37), held by Ben Grieve (2001). Damon also matched Dodgers RF Andre Ethier for the longest streak in the league this season.

Damon, the leadoff hitter, is batting .297 over that stretch.

"Hopefully, it's more via base hits and walks instead of fielders' choices and all that stuff," Damon said. "It's a nice little run, hopefully we can continue it."

Maddon said a reason Damon has done it is that he never loses his present-tense focus. "He's a grinder," Maddon said. "With all capital letters."

QUESTION MARK: RHP Kyle Farnsworth, who has 14 saves in 15 chances, said he'll be fine despite catching the same stomach bug that has been spreading around the clubhouse.

Maddon said he found out in Sunday's third inning that Farns­worth was sick. By the fifth he was unavailable, and Maddon said he had "no idea" if he can be used today. "The way this thing has worked, some guys it's 24 hours, some guys 48," he said.

LEANING LEFT: Maddon said part of the reason RF Matt Joyce was out of the lineup was the Orioles started a lefty, Brian Matusz, but he added the Rays were planning on giving Joyce a day off anyway even before he missed Friday's game with post-injection soreness in his left shoulder.

Maddon said with Joyce's shoulder, and the Tigers throwing LHP Phil Coke tonight, Joyce could sit out again as the Red Sox will start three righties Tuesday-Thursday.

IN A GROOVE: Considering how well OF Justin Ruggiano had been playing, and how he accepts his walks, Maddon thought he'd be a good option for the No. 3 spot in the lineup Sunday. Ruggiano delivered, extending his hitting streak to six games with three more hits and picking up a sliding catch in leftfield.

Ruggiano, who has made six consecutive starts, said playing on a regular basis has helped him play more consistently. Maddon acknowledged that Ruggiano's emergence, and the fact that he can hit righties, will impact the playing time of OF Sam Fuld, who has dropped off after his memorable start to the season.

MISCELLANY: RHP Alex Cobb will make what could be his final start tonight before getting sent back to Triple-A Durham, with RHP Jeff Niemann (lower back) getting close to coming off the disabled list. … RHP James Shields flew back to Tampa after Sunday's game in preparation for his Tuesday start against Boston. … INF Elliot Johnson, activated from the disabled list Saturday, started at shortstop Sunday and could again tonight. … The four steals by the Rays in the first inning tied a club record set May 19, 2010, against the Yankees. … RHP Cory Wade was released from Triple-A Durham.

Misplay in center helps Tampa Bay Rays' Evan Longoria get first inside-the-park home run 06/12/11 [Last modified: Sunday, June 12, 2011 9:49pm]
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