Evan Longoria Returns to TB
Posted on: August 7, 2012 4:32 pm
Tampa Bay Rays 2011 hero and face of the franchise Evan Longoria is due back for the Tampa Bay Rays tonight after being out for nearly 2 months with a hamstring injury. If there was ever a player who is most valuable to his team, Longoria would be it. The Rays, who have one of the best pitching staffs in baseball have been fortunate to be hanging around the playoff chase with their terrible hitting. Prior to Longoria being injured the team was posting 4.6 runs per game with him in the lineup. Since then, they have scored just 3.8. That's ALMOST a run per game and when your pitching staff is under 4.00 for their ERA, that ONE run is the difference in third place in the standings (and 7 games out of first) to first place and leading the division. When Longoria went down early in the season, Joe Maddon said the team's mentality would be to 'stay afloat' and try to 'hold down the fort' until Longo's return. A few weeks later, after the Rays dropped nearly 10 games behind the first place Yankees, Maddon changed his tune, claiming the team needed to start putting together wins and winning out series. It hasn't helped that free agent acquisitions Carlos Pena (.sub .200 batting average) and Luke Scott ( 0-40 something before going back on the disabled list) haven't filled the void. The team as a whole is batting WELL under the Mendoza line and Carlos Pen'as 46 RBIs are the team lead. It is obvious that Evan Longoria's impact goes well beyond his bat. The former Gold Glove winner has created a hole at 3rd base that is likely to remain there for a few more weeks. Longoria is expected to return to the lineup, primarily as the designated hitter, but I can assure you his presence in the lineup alone will make a big difference for Pena and the middle of the lineup. The Rays are expected to tread lightly with Longoria as his DL stay and subsequent rehab stints had a few bumps. Just last week, Longoria took a day off because of soreness in his hamstrings. Longoria can afford to drop even .30 to .40 points on his batting average AND STILL lead the team in that category. Hits, translate to runs, and with Desmond Jennings and BJ Upton on base, Longoria's batting average is more than enough to drag some runs across the board. Should Longoria be fully healthy, you can expect to see the Tampa Bay Rays on top of the WIldcard standings within a few weeks. If he were to STAY healthy for the remainder of the season, I would not be surprised to see Longoria and the Rays' pitching staff carry the team back to the top of the AL East. Even if it takes all 162 games.