Monday, December 11, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays hope Longoria heats up for stretch drive

ST. PETERSBURG — As hot as the Rays have been, manager Joe Maddon admitted it's unusual that they just had their best month in club history while their best player, 3B Evan Longoria, has struggled.

Longoria hit .194 (19-for-98) in July, the second-lowest mark of his career for any month (.189 in July 2009). He did have an 11-game hitting streak but also 37 strikeouts.

"I feel like I'm inches away from breaking out of it," Longoria said. "The good thing is we're still winning. I don't really feel any pressure to do any more than I've been doing lately. Obviously, I'd love to be hitting a home run every night and driving guys in. But we've been winning, so that really kind of gives me a peace of mind to be able to continue to work and trust that it's going to come around."

For Longoria, it's more mental than mechanical. He pointed to Wednesday's strikeout with the bases loaded in the seventh inning of a 7-0 loss to the Diamondbacks as an example of what has been going wrong: He's looking for one pitch and getting another.

Longoria, facing RHP Heath Bell, said he probably should have swung at the first pitch, which was out over the plate, but he wanted to get in the rhythm of the at-bat. After working a 3-and-2 count, Longoria was expecting a fastball but was frozen with a slider on the outside corner, ending the Rays' biggest threat.

"Those are the kind of at-bats I want to be up there in and the situation I want to be in, to be able to come through and start to get that feeling again," Longoria said.

Longoria still leads the Rays in homers (21) and RBIs (58), but he also leads them in strikeouts (111), which puts him on a pace to surpass his career high, 140 in 2009. Maddon lauded how Longoria is not letting his offensive scuffles affect him defensively.

Longoria has history on his side. He is a career .233 hitter in July, but his average jumps to .267 in August and .291 in September/October.

"The hitting is going to come back," Maddon said. "He's going to start smoking the ball like he usually does, but it's unusual to think that we've been this hot for this long and he's struggled a bit."

STAYING PRESENT: Considering INF Ryan Roberts has been sent down to Triple-A Durham three times in the past month and a half, he didn't know what to expect leading up to Wednesday's nonwaiver trade deadline.

But when Roberts, 32, was unexpectedly pulled from Tuesday's Bulls game, he was happy he was getting called up to the Rays, providing infield depth while LHP Matt Moore (elbow soreness) is on the disabled list.

"I don't know what's going to happen; I really don't. And at this point, I kind of don't think about that anymore," Roberts said. "I just think about trying to make the most out of every day that I'm here, regardless of whether I'm here for three days, here for 15 days, here for five, you just have no idea. I'm sure the cards will fall in my favor somehow."

MINOR MATTERS: RHP Brandon Gomes (lat strain) continued his rehabilitation assignment Thursday with Durham.

Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected]

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