ST. PETERSBURG — It was hard to pick the hero from Friday's 2-0 win over the Angels.
There was Rays starter James Shields, who delivered the best performance of his big-league career with a complete-game one-hitter, his second shutout in his past three outings.
There was All-Star leftfielder Carl Crawford, who made a game-changing, diving catch in the third, a grab manager Joe Maddon called "one of the best ones I've seen" at the Trop.
But in the ninth, it was rookie Evan Longoria who stole the spotlight. He shook off a recent slump to hit a walk-off, two-run homer that brought the crowd of 12,039 to its feet and lift the Rays (19-16) to a win over one of the American League's best teams (22-15), starting a seven-game homestand with a bang.
Longoria said he was "pumped" as he rounded third, tossing his helmet in the air before leaping into a mosh-pit style celebration at home plate. The rookie was then given a celebratory Gatorade bath before Eric Hinske smothered shaving cream on his face. It was the Rays' seventh straight home win, tying a franchise record.
"We're expecting to win on a nightly basis; we're at that point," Maddon said. "The whole vibe has been very good.
"We almost feel like if we can keep it close, we'll be able to do something at the end. That's how you get to play at the end of the year."
Shields was coming off one of the roughest starts in his young career, lasting just three innings (seven runs and 10 hits) against the Red Sox at Fenway Park.
But on Friday night, the right-hander was sharp from the get-go. Shields consistently got ahead of hitters, baffling many with his changeup, striking out eight and walking none.
Shields' complete-game shutout was the Rays' third this season — most in the majors and tying a franchise record (2000, 2003).
He did get a lift from his defense. Centerfielder B.J. Upton made a diving grab to rob the game's first batter, Gary Matthews, of a hit. Then, in the third, Crawford raced to his left to get a liner by catcher Mike Napoli, fully extending on a diving catch near the warning track.
"I've been telling people from Day 1, this is one of the best, if not the best, outfields in the country," Shields said. "They made some outstanding plays today that put us up on the board."
From there, it was all Shields. After Brandon Wood's single up the middle in the third, he didn't give up another hit, getting 1-2-3 innings in frames five through nine.
"Today," Shields said, "I was on my game."
The problem was, Angels starter Jon Garland (eight innings, four hits, no runs) was equally as tough. The Rays did get baserunners, but couldn't get the big hit.
That was until Longoria's 396-foot blast, which came off Angels right-hander Justin Speier with Upton on and one out.
"Must have been the day off," Longoria said with a grin.
Maddon had planned to rest Longoria on Thursday night to give him a mental break from his 5-for-32 (.156) slump on the recent road trip, but the manager used him in the later innings.
Maddon said defense and pitching have been carrying the Rays through their strong start as the bats remained relatively quiet.
Hitting "is gonna come," Shields said. "And when it comes, look out."
Shields by the numbers
0 Other major-leaguers to throw two shutouts this season.
1.16 Home ERA, best in the American League.
2 Complete-game one-hitters in Rays history.
18 Consecutive scoreless innings thrown at Tropicana Field.
28 Team-record low number of batters faced in a complete game.
92 Team-record low number of pitches in a complete game.