ST. PETERSBURG -- Hank Conger was one of the last Rays to enter the clubhouse after Tampa Bay had beaten the Yankees, 9-5, on Saturday. He sprinted down the hallway into a room full of his teammates, and as soon as he did, a loud roar projected through the walls.The
ST. PETERSBURG -- Hank Conger was one of the last Rays to enter the clubhouse after Tampa Bay had beaten the Yankees, 9-5, on Saturday. He sprinted down the hallway into a room full of his teammates, and as soon as he did, a loud roar projected through the walls.
The catcher had been hitting .153 coming into the game. He had no home runs and three RBIs to show for his 59 at-bats on the year. On Saturday, though, he was the star. He had a homer, two doubles and three RBIs. The three extra-base hits were a career high. He even threw a runner out at second for just the second time in 53 attempts.
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Because of all the struggles that had come before, the hoopla afterward meant that much more
"I think the celebration was kind of a knock on how long it's took," Conger joked. "You know, it felt good."
After Conger hit a high and deep fly out to right field in the second inning, he told Matt Moore as he got back to the dugout that he was feeling good at the plate.
The next time up, he doubled to the gap. After that, he crushed a three-run homer off Luis Cessa to put the Rays up, 9-1. He got up again in the eighth and doubled down the right-field line for good measure.
"It's good to see," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "He's grinding it out. You look at the last couple of games he's played, and he's gotten some really big hits."
Conger singled in two runs in a 4-3 win at Miami on Tuesday, but he hadn't produced much since then in limited at-bats. The catcher had recorded 11 home runs with the Astros a season ago in a part-time role, but the power didn't manifest itself this season until his big afternoon against the Yankees.
"Obviously, it's been a slow start for me," Conger said. "Even the past couple of days, my swing has been feeling good. Today kind of translated."
Sam Blum is a reporter for MLB.com based in St. Petersburg.