ST. PETERSBURG -- In the midst of the Rays' recent slump, something good has been cooking at the plate for Evan Longoria.The veteran slugger's bat is heating up, and Wednesday afternoon's 5-1 win against the Orioles validated that fact with a two-run home run and a 3-for-4 game.The Rays trailed
ST. PETERSBURG -- In the midst of the Rays' recent slump, something good has been cooking at the plate for Evan Longoria.
The veteran slugger's bat is heating up, and Wednesday afternoon's 5-1 win against the Orioles validated that fact with a two-run home run and a 3-for-4 game.
The Rays trailed 1-0 with two outs in the sixth inning with a man on when Longoria stepped to the plate. With a 1-1 count, Longoria jumped on an 89-mph fastball from Orioles starter Ubaldo Jimenez and deposited the pitch a projected 402 feet, according to Statcast™, into the left-field stands.
"He threw the ball well today," Longoria said of Jimenez. "I went back and looked at the pitch I hit out, and it wasn't that bad of a pitch. It was just one of those situations where I felt like I had to pick a location and a pitch and try to swing to it. And I got the right one."
Longoria's barreled ball had an exit velocity of 109.9 mph, his hardest-hit home run since Statcast™ started tracking hit balls, with a 25-degree launch angle. His 15th home run of the season put the Rays up 2-1.
The third baseman entered the 2017 coming off one of his best seasons when he hit .273 with a career-high 36 home runs and 98 RBIs. Longoria admitted that this season has been a battle for him.
"It just kind of goes to show you how tough this game is and how tough it is to be consistent year to year," Longoria said. "But it's been fun. That's what keeps it interesting."
Longoria has shown progress each month. He hit .208 in April, .272 in May, .283 in June, and he's hitting .351 in July.
"I feel like I've always been a better second-half player," Longoria said. "I'm not very good typically numbers-wise [in the first half]. I guess if there's a good time to heat up, it's the second half. I just hope to continue rolling and swing the bat well."
Rays outfielder Steven Souza Jr. said "it's nothing but good for our offense" to have Longoria getting hot.
"By his standards, he wouldn't have said he was excited about the first half," Souza said. "And it wasn't even that bad at all. But to have him return to the form that we all know he's capable of, it just means more damage in our lineup."
Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005.