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Tampa Bay Rays' Evan Longoria isn't sure of reason, just wants to continue his hot stretch

Evan Longoria has batted .345 with three homers and 14 RBIs in 13 games since moving to the cleanup spot.

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Evan Longoria has batted .345 with three homers and 14 RBIs in 13 games since moving to the cleanup spot.

ANAHEIM, Calif. — It could have been the move to cleanup in the batting order. Perhaps some slight adjustments to his swing and stance. Possibly a change in approach, being more disciplined and selective.

Or, maybe it was just time.

Evan Longoria doesn't really know what led to his recent resurgence, and he doesn't really care to probe too deeply. All that matters to him is that after two months of struggle, he's feeling good at the plate and, more important for the Rays as they opened a series in Anaheim late Monday, doing better, picking up American League co-player of the week honors as proof.

"I don't know; it's just part of the game," Longoria said. "You go a little bit bad and start thinking a little bit too much, and trying to maybe fix things that aren't even there.

"So it was just a matter of having a couple good swings in a row and starting to feel that confidence, a hitter's confidence again. Just going into the box and having confidence is the biggest thing."

It may not be quite that simple, but something is working:

In a 50-game stretch from June 12-Aug. 8, Longoria hit .234 with four homers, 23 RBIs and 16 extra-base hits.

In the 13 games since, from his Aug. 9 move to cleanup going into Monday, Longoria hit .345 with three homers, 14 RBIs and 13 extra-base hits.

"I feel good," Longoria said. "I've had a really, really good approach the last week and a half, and even when I'm not getting hits I'm still squaring the ball up, which is a good feeling."

Surely manager Joe Maddon has some theories on what Longoria is doing differently.

"I really believe he's got his physical mechanics back in order," Maddon said. "Because of that, when he's seeing his pitch he's not missing it. He's not fouling it off. He's not taking it. It's going fair, hard.

"When you teach hitting, whenever I taught hitting, the mental concept is that you put your body in position that if you see your pitch, you hit it hard and you keep it fair. You don't take it, and you don't foul it off. When he was going badly I think he was taking it or fouling it off."

That sounds good.

Except then Maddon said it could have also been mental, stemming from Longoria swinging at too many bad pitches by expanding his strike zone.

"That's part of it, too," he said. "When guys struggle and expand, all of a sudden they think there's something wrong with their mechanics. No, you're just swinging at balls. Swinging at bad pitches. Nobody hits those pitches. You can have the most pristine, perfect physical mechanics ever invented and still be bad because nobody hits that pitch. So that's what you got to get across to hitters sometimes. You always research what you're thinking first before you go to the physical side."

Well, there's that, too.

What's clear is that Longoria is on a roll, and at a key time as the Rays head into the final six weeks of the season. Even with the two bad months, the overall numbers he took into Monday's homecoming at Angel Stadium are impressive: .292 with 18 homers, 84 RBIs (11th most in the league), 63 extra-base hits (third) and an .882 OPS (11th).

"I'm swinging a lot better," Longoria said. "And like I always say, when I'm going through a phase like this I just try to do all the same things I've been doing and try to stay hot."

Whatever they are.

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com.

Tampa Bay Rays' Evan Longoria isn't sure of reason, just wants to continue his hot stretch 08/23/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 24, 2010 8:34am]

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