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Tampa Bay Rays' Evan Longoria putting pressure on himself to lead team during playoff race

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Evan Longoria was excited to be home in SoCal on Monday, playing for the Rays in the stadium he used to drive by as a teenager hoping that one day he'd be on the field.

"Obviously a dream at that time," Longoria said, "but for it to be a reality now and to be able to go home and play in front of the home crowd, it's always a cool feeling."

Even better was how he has been feeling at the plate, having homered in eight of 25 games, then lacing an RBI double off the top of the centerfield wall in his first at-bat.

Being totally recovered from the hamstring and finger issues that sidelined him earlier is part of it, as is having his swing in good shape, but the increase in production isn't accidental.

"I've kinda actually put the pressure on myself a little bit more to kind of get going and do as much as I can to help the team win," he said. "I was kind of in one of those phases before where I wasn't, it's not like I wasn't trying, but I wasn't really getting upset at myself if I wasn't getting it done, and I kind of felt like it was time to kick myself in the butt and get things going here.

"I don't feel like all the pressure's on myself — we have eight other guys in the lineup that can get it done — but I felt like it was my job with the race heating up and things getting late in the year to kind of step it up a little bit."

Manager Joe Maddon has noticed several slight improvements, such as how Longoria is swinging, what he's swinging at and where they're going when he hits them. "I'm seeing a lot of things that would indicate he's getting hot," he said.

And that, obviously, is a good thing. "No question," Maddon said. "He likes the moment. It could make a huge impact."

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Tampa Bay Rays' Evan Longoria putting pressure on himself to lead team during playoff race 08/10/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 11, 2009 1:27am]
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