Friday, February 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Tampa Bay Rays rout Minnesota Twins 12-6

MINNEAPOLIS — Evan Longoria can't have this much impact, can he?

The Rays won again Friday night, a 12-6 breeze by the Twins, making it four in a row since Longoria came off the disabled list Tuesday.

And not only are the Rays unbeaten, they are, well, relatively unstoppable.

The team that went 21 scoreless innings in the weekend series with Baltimore, the team that totaled only 25 runs for its previous 10 games, the team that was held to three or fewer runs 47 times, and averaged 3.86 per, during the 85 games Longoria missed, is suddenly a prolific offensive machine.

In the four games with Longoria, they Rays have scored 26 runs, they've rapped 42 hits, and they've posted their first four-game winning streak since early June. (Of course, facing the depleted Blue Jays and deplorable Twins may have something to do with it.) In doing so, they improved to 60-52 and are within a half-game of the AL wild-card lead.

"Him being back is big for us," leftfielder Desmond Jennings said. "He's one of the most important people on our team. Having him back, having his presence back, just being around him and having him being in uniform and back on the field just gets all of us going. We feel like everything is back to normal."

Longoria, out more than three months with a left hamstring injury, actually didn't have much to do with Friday's big numbers, going 1-for-3 (RBI single) as the DH before leaving for a pinch-runner after a sixth-inning walk.

If anything, it was a group effort. Matt Joyce topped the chart with a two-run homer and a two-run double, Jose Molina had three RBIs on a pair of singles, and Jennings had three hits, including a first-pitch-of-the-game double that sparked a two-run rally.

By the end of the night, the Rays had matched their season high for runs in an inning with six in the second, batted around in two innings, and everyone in the starting lineup had a hit except for shortstop Ben Zobrist.

Manager Joe Maddon said the most tangible impact Longoria has beyond his own contributions is making the lineup "longer and thicker," the hitters ahead of him getting better pitches and those after him more chances to hit with a runner on.

"Some people argue that could happen with economics, it could also happen within a baseball team, so, yeah, I like the trickle-down effect," Maddon said. "Longo's presence has made a difference."

Jeremy Hellickson made his way through five innings to even his record at 7-7, but what should have been an easy night really wasn't as he twice gave up runs with outs, walked the No. 9 hitter twice and threw 98 pitches.

"It was very uncomfortable, I didn't like it," Maddon said. "He got the win tonight, but that was not one of his better outings. He was really not sharp overall."

Hellickson said he felt good, "but I really couldn't put anybody away when I got the chance."

But in the Rays' new world order, the offense covered for the pitching.

"We're feeling pretty good, we're feeling pretty confident," Joyce said. "We've got Longo back and obviously he has a big impact on everybody else in the lineup."

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