Sunday, February 18, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Longoria leads Rays past Sabathia, Yankees

ST. PETERSBURG — Saturday's 4-2 victory over the Yankees was another example of the Rays showing not only their ability but their belief, no matter how a game starts or where it seems headed, that they can come out on top.

"When you get to that point in the year — it's almost September — and you get that vibe among your group, it's kind of a good thing," manager Joe Maddon said. "We've been there before as a playoff team, and it really smells that way right now."

The win in front of 32,862 at the Trop was the Rays' eighth in their past 10 games, improving them to 74-53 to match their season high of 21 games over .500 and keeping them atop the American League East by percentage points over the Red Sox.

They're there for a number of reasons, from the starting pitching getting for the most part back in order, a resurgence in the offense, reliability in the bullpen and spectacular defense on just about a daily basis.

Also, Evan Longoria.

"Longo getting back to being Longo has helped a lot, actually," Maddon said.

For a long time, more than a month, Longoria looked like someone else. But slowly over the past couple of weeks he has gotten more comfortable, and more familiar, with his swing. Saturday was the latest example, as his first three-hit game in two months included a sixth-inning single that put the Rays ahead and an eighth-inning homer, his 27th, that helped make sure they stayed there.

Sure, David Price battled through six innings and an "amorphic" — Maddon's word — strike zone from umpire Jerry Meals, as the Rays won the eighth of his nine meetings with CC Sabathia. Ben Zobrist had the first big hit, doubling in two to tie, his team-high 23rd tying/go-ahead RBI. Sean Rodriguez made a leaping catch at the leftfield wall on what Alfonso Soriano obviously thought was a home run ("He did his hop, jump and his skip, so I figured it was 30 rows deep," Price said). And Fernando Rodney finished, drama-free, for his 30th save.

But it was Longoria who led the way.

"He's us," Price said. "That's what it is. As he goes, we go. A lot of teams probably say that about certain players, but that really stands true behind Longo. … When he's swinging the bat well, you can try and be careful with him, you can make that good pitch, but he is who he is. He'll definitely be an MVP candidate year in, year out like he's been. I love him out there."

Longoria's setup is unique and his swing very feel-oriented, so he said there was no one moment when he suddenly felt he had escaped the extended slump, but more of a gradual process.

"I think sometimes you just have to have a couple of good at-bats and feel what it's supposed to feel like before you can actually start doing it on a consistent basis," he said. "I just continued to hit and work in the cage. After a couple good at-bats, they've just started to pile up lately."

So have the results, as he's hitting .317 over his past 16 games with eight doubles and six homers, after a 33-game stretch with a .174 average and just seven extra-base hits.

"There's so many ups and downs," he said. "Hopefully (I can) ride it out for the rest of the year and help the team to be where we want to be come Sept. 30."

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]tampabay.com. Follow him on Twitter at @TBTimes_Rays.

   
Comments
Ellsbury ready to play, but where?

Ellsbury ready to play, but where?

By ROGER MOONEYTimes Staff WriterTAMPA – Jacoby Ellsbury reported Sunday and said all the right things when he faced the Yankees media for the first time this spring.He is excited to begin spring training. He worked hard this offseason. He is e...
Updated: 1 hour ago
What were Rays thinking in ditching Odorizzi, Dickerson, adding Cron?

What were Rays thinking in ditching Odorizzi, Dickerson, adding Cron?

PORT CHARLOTTE – Rays officials insisted Sunday they made the best deals they could in a bad market, trading No. 2 starter Jake Odorizzi for an unheralded Class A shortstop prospect and DFA-ing 2017 All-Star Corey Dickerson in essentially a swa...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Live from Port Charlotte: Rays will open with 4-man rotation, Andriese in pen

Live from Port Charlotte: Rays will open with 4-man rotation, Andriese in pen

While most of the talk at Rays camp on Sunday was about the series of late Saturday deals that saw Jake Odorizzi traded, Corey Dickerson DFA'd and C.J. Cron acquired, there was some news.Manager Kevin Cash said they that because of a lot of early sea...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Morning after comments on Rays’ busy Saturday, dealing Odorizzi, Dickerson; adding Cron

Morning after comments on Rays’ busy Saturday, dealing Odorizzi, Dickerson; adding Cron

Here are some of the comments from Rays camp this morning after the Rays' busy Saturday night in which they traded RHP Jake Odorizzi to the Twins for Class A SS prospect Jermaine Palacios, designated for assignment 2017 All-Star DH/OF Corey Dickerson...
Updated: 7 hours ago
‘Babe Ruth of Japan’ already talks the talk of an MLB pitcher

‘Babe Ruth of Japan’ already talks the talk of an MLB pitcher

TEMPE, Ariz. – Major league pitchers nowadays emerge from the womb, or at the very least arrive at the end of their minor-league apprenticeships, already knowing that the only proper answer to any question pertaining to your first stint on a mo...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Rays trade Odorizzi to Twins, acquire Cron from Angels, DFA All-Star Dickerson

Rays trade Odorizzi to Twins, acquire Cron from Angels, DFA All-Star Dickerson

The order from ownership to cut payroll stymied by the same market freeze that has stalled transactions throughout the game, the Rays on Saturday night burst into action with a series of somewhat confusing moves that saved them around $10 million.The...
Published: 02/17/18
Updated: 02/18/18
Who was right in Archer-Honeywell exchange? How about both?

Who was right in Archer-Honeywell exchange? How about both?

ROSTER REPORTFirst of our weekly semi-educated guesses at the makeup of the 25-man opening day roster, projecting that Jake Odorizzi and Denard Span will be traded:PITCHERS (12): Jose Alvarado, Matt Andriese, Chris Archer, Alex Colome, Nathan Eovaldi...
Published: 02/17/18
For Rays Wilson Ramos, horrors of 2011 kidnapping remain

For Rays Wilson Ramos, horrors of 2011 kidnapping remain

PORT CHARLOTTE – Lying on the floor of a Venezuelan mountain hideout as his kidnappers and would-be rescuers exchanged gunfire for more than five minutes, Wilson Ramos, understandably, feared the worst."Everything I was thinking in that moment ...
Published: 02/17/18
Denard Span happy to be with Rays now, would be happier March 29

Denard Span happy to be with Rays now, would be happier March 29

PORT CHARLOTTE – OF Denard Span was truly happy to be here in Rays camp on Saturday.But the Tampa product said he'll be much happier – and more relaxed – if he actually makes it to the regular season with his hometown team.The Rays ...
Published: 02/17/18
Live from Port Charlotte: Rays to continue parade of arms

Live from Port Charlotte: Rays to continue parade of arms

UPDATE, 9:59: Span, Williams and Velazquez have all reported to camp, leaving the Rays just Hechavarria shy of  a full house.Velazquez, who played last season at Double-A Montgomery, said he was pleasantly surprised to get a call on Tuesday, whi...
Published: 02/17/18