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Tampa Bay Rays' Evan Longoria gets more selective, finally homers again

ST. PETERSBURG — 3B Evan Longoria talked Wednesday night about how the finger should be pointed at the offense for the Rays' struggles, with the onus on the hitters to come through.

On Thursday, Longoria walked the walk, delivering a solo homer in the first inning in a 2-1 victory. It was his first homer in 10 games, and it couldn't have come at a better time.

"I'm so happy for Longo; he's been hitting the balls on the screws almost every time and just hitting it to the wrong part of the ballpark," RHP James Shields said. "It was nice to see the ball go into the stands."

Longoria went 2-for-2 with two walks Thursday after batting .157 (10-for-57) in July (14 games). One of the walks was intentional.

"It's a good confidence boost for him," manager Joe Maddon said. "He worked better at-bats, taking borderline pitches."

STEPPING UP: Rookie RHP Brandon Gomes got one of the game's biggest outs, called in with two outs in the eighth and the tying run on second base to retire OF Nick Swisher.

Usually it's RHP Joel Peralta in high-leverage, eighth-inning spots, but with the veteran unavailable, Maddon went with Gomes, who got Swisher to fly out to center on a splitter. Maddon said it was a good game-calling by C Kelly Shoppach, likely thinking Swisher was looking for a first-pitch fastball.

"Got him just enough out front," Gomes said. "That's all that matters."

WADING IN: RHP Wade Davis is eager to return from the disabled list tonight for his start against the Royals.

But Davis is also excited for what he's bringing back with him: his slider.

In his previous two outings, before landing on the DL on July 7 with a right forearm strain, Davis mostly stayed away from the pitch, which Maddon said was partly due to his injury.

But Davis has felt good in a couple of bullpen sessions this week, and he hopes he can pick up where he left off, having won three of his last five starts.

To make room, RHP reliever Dane De La Rosa was optioned to Triple-A Durham on Thursday.

TRADE WINDS: CF B.J. Upton is no stranger to having his name floated around in trade rumors, so he said he hasn't allowed it to be a distraction.

"It's been that way the last two, three years," Upton said. "So I expect it every year. I'm not too worried about it. It's out of my hands. Whatever they're going to do, they're going to do it. I can't control it."

Upton, who has been in the Rays organization since he was drafted No. 2 overall in 2002, said he hopes Thursday wasn't his last home game in a Rays uniform.

"I grew up in the minor leagues with a lot of these guys," Upton said. "I love being here, I love playing with them. I'm just hoping for the best."

CATCHING ON: Rookie C Robinson Chirinos, who has thrown out just one of 12 attempted base- stealers in his first three big-league games, said the problem is easily correctable.

Chirinos said Maddon told him his throws have been good, but an issue with his left knee has slowed him from getting in position to throw.

"I feel like every time with a guy on first base, they were going to go," Chirinos said. "I was ready, it's just a little late every time."

MINOR MATTERS: Rays top pitching prospect LHP Matt Moore will make his first start for Durham tonight. … The Bulls hit seven homers in an 18-3 win Thursday over Rochester.

MISCELLANY: Maddon wasn't ready to announce the rotation for the Oakland series, but RHP Jeremy Hellickson said he's starting Monday. Maddon said DH Johnny Damon didn't start Thursday because the Yankees started LHP CC Sabathia. Maddon started LF Sam Fuld instead of OF Matt Joyce because he's worked better at-bats against lefties, and he hit an RBI triple in the fifth. … Seventh-round pick Ryan Carpenter, a left-handed pitcher from Gonzaga, was at the Trop on Thursday and is close to signing.

Tampa Bay Rays' Evan Longoria gets more selective, finally homers again 07/21/11 [Last modified: Friday, July 22, 2011 12:28am]

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