ST. PETERSBURG — 3B Evan Longoria picked the perfect time to end his struggles against Royals ace Zack Greinke.
Longoria entered Sunday's game 0-for-10 with two strikeouts in his career against the American League Cy Young Award winner. But it was Longoria who picked up two of the Rays' four hits, including the pivotal homer in the fourth inning of a 1-0 win.
Longoria said he didn't really make any adjustments. He just found himself in favorable situations. He credited his first-inning single with being in a hitter's count (2-and-1) and getting a fastball to hit. As for the homer?
"I think he probably just made the only mistake he made all game, a slider out over the plate," Longoria said. "He pitched a heck of a game and didn't make too many other mistakes to the other guys. Sometimes it's just that one pitch you've got to capitalize on to win games like that."
Longoria, who extended his hitting streak to nine games (with a .457 average in that stretch), made an impression on Greinke, too.
"Pretty much, Longoria swung really good (Sunday)," Greinke said. "Even his popup, he was right on, he just missed it. This is the most he's impressed me since he's been in the big leagues. The whole series he looked good."
IN CLOSING: RHP Rafael Soriano, pitching in his third straight game, recorded his sixth save in six chances and displayed the fearlessness, and fastball velocity, the Rays anticipated when they acquired him in the offseason.
With two outs, Soriano went right after Rick Ankiel, throwing three straight fastballs (two swing-and-misses) that registered at 94, 95 and 96 mph on the stadium scoreboard.
"He had a little bit extra on that last one; you could see he smelled (the victory)," manager Joe Maddon said. "There was no backing off. … It was absolutely beautiful."
Soriano, who had a limited workload all spring, said it'd take a month for his velocity to get where he wanted it, and his arm is more in shape now. "I was going to throw everything that I got," he said. "And it worked perfect."
BRIGNAC'S BEANING: 2B Reid Brignac had a scary moment in the fifth inning when a Greinke pitch bounced off his foot and hit him in the head, knocking his helmet off and him to the ground. He sat for a few minutes and was attended to by the Rays medical staff but stayed in the game. Maddon said Brignac is fine.
WHEEL OF FORTUNE: RHP Dan Wheeler picked up his fifth consecutive scoreless outing, striking out Billy Butler to end the eighth. Wheeler has five strikeouts in his past 22/3 innings, which Maddon attributed to throwing good breaking balls low and away to right-handed hitters.
"He's been really sharp," Maddon said.
MEDICAL MATTERS: LHP J.P. Howell will throw another bullpen session today, incorporating curveballs into the 40-pitch workout, with the emphasis on how he feels over the final five.
"If the last five looks good, we can go up (in pitches) again," Howell said. "They want to see if my body can power through that."
Howell said he'll throw bullpen sessions Thursday and Sunday, with the hope that he'll be ready to start a rehab assignment soon after, with late May still the targeted return date.
OF Matt Joyce (elbow strain) said he's still a week away from being able to throw again and is still hoping for a late May return.
MISCELLANY: 2B Sean Rodriguez made his first outfield appearance for the Rays and went 2-for-3, his second multihit game of the season. … LF Carl Crawford was scheduled to get the day off but entered in the ninth as a defensive replacement.