ST. PETERSBURG — DH Johnny Damon has bigger milestones in mind, such as 3,000 hits and the potential to be voted into the Hall of Fame.
But Saturday wasn't a bad checkpoint, as he joined an exclusive club by rapping his 500th career double and with a later single tied Jimmie Foxx for 72nd on the hits list at 2,646.
"It means so much," he said.
Damon became the 11th player in MLB history with at least 100 triples, 200 home runs, 500 doubles and 2,500 hits. The other 10 (see chart) are all in the Hall of Fame, and only three — George Brett, Paul Molitor and Robin Yount — began their careers in the past 60 years.
"You look at the numbers this guy keeps racking up," Rays manager Joe Maddon. "You talk about deserving the Hall of Fame, absolutely that kind of performance deserves not only strong consideration but acceptance, I think."
Damon, 37, said the Hall was "the ultimate" goal, but Saturday he was more touched by the moment as he received a roaring ovation when he reached second base and twice waved his helmet in gratitude.
"The fans really showed me how much they cared and how much they respect what I just accomplished," he said. "I'm just enjoying playing so close to home for the Rays. It's really a dream come true for me."
HIGH-STEPPING: 3B Evan Longoria was in the lineup after receiving a shot Friday night for an occasionally painful condition in his left foot known as a Morton's neuroma. According to mayoclinic.com, it involves a thickening of the tissue around one of the nerves leading to the toes.
Longoria said he has had the condition for the past two years and usually manages the discomfort with painkilling shots. "It's been getting bad, just kind of progressing," he said. "It's not something that prevents me from playing, it's just something that's there and I've got to deal with."
JOLTIN' JAMES: The last time RHP James Shields faced the Marlins on May 22 in steamy south Florida, all he did was throw a four-hit shutout, strike out a team record-tying 13 and knock in the winning run.
That ranked as one of, if not the best of his 166 career games, and as Shields takes the mound against the Marlins again today, he has more meager goals.
"What do I do for an encore? Go out there and try to win," he said. "It'd be nice to go ahead and replicate that game for sure, but I'm not really worried about throwing a CG or not. My goal is to go deep in the game, try to get a quality start and get a win."
CROWD CONTROL: After drawing a below-projections 63,855 for the three Red Sox games, the Rays are last in the AL and 29th overall in attendance, averaging 18,248 through 35 games. That's a dropoff of nearly 17 percent from the same point last season and puts them on pace for a season total of 1,478,088, which would be their lowest since the Devil Rays days of 2007.
SUCH A DEAL: The Rays, according to ESPN The Magazine, offer the most "Bang for the Buck" among MLB's 30 teams.
Though ranking seventh among MLB teams and 25th among pro sports franchises in ESPN's ultimate standings, the Rays were ranked the second most affordable team in all sports (behind the Angels) and first overall for ticket pricing. (They were ninth for parking prices and 14th for concessions.)
MISCELLANY: RHP Jeff Niemann, out since early May with a lower back strain, said he is set to return, with starts Monday in Milwaukee and next Sunday in Houston, his hometown. … Class A Bowling Green clinched its first Midwest League playoff berth. … LHP Matt Moore's next start will be in Tuesday's Southern League All-Star Game. … RHP Jeremy Hellickson was presented his May AL rookie of the month award.