CLEVELAND — Evan Longoria proved again in Monday's tiebreaker win that — even in a season marred by inconsistency — he is still the biggest force in the Rays lineup. And Wil Myers has been putting an impressive finish on his first big-league season.
But just as much a part of the Rays' resurgent offense — and their accompanying rekindled championship hopes — has been the addition of Delmon Young, who has taken over as the primary DH and is expected to be in the lineup again for tonight's American League wild-card game.
"Everybody keeps talking about everything else, but Delmon quietly has made a tremendous impact on this group," manager Joe Maddon said. "His at-bats have been really good in regards to accepting his walks, not expanding his strike zone, hitting the ball hard, hitting all kinds of pitchers.
"He's done a great job."
There wouldn't seem to have been high expectations in August when the Rays agreed to bring back Young after he was released by the Phillies, having hit .261 with eight homers and 31 RBIs in 80 games. Young had started his career with the Rays as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2003 draft, and his November 2007 trade to Minnesota for Jason Bartlett and Matt Garza set up the Rays' 2008 breakthrough season and continued success.
But Young, who went on to be a key part of Twins and Tigers teams that made the playoffs, has been a good fit for these Rays, with a .258 average, three homers, seven RBIs and a .781 on-base plus slugging percentage in 23 games.
"I really thought he would have this kind of an impact, honestly," Maddon said. "He's been through these moments. DY is not going to be really overwhelmed by any of this stuff."