Evan Longoria Finds First 2013 Home Run Amidst Struggling Tampa Bay Rays Offense

By Thom Tsang
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s the good news for the Tampa Bay Rays: their cornerstone third baseman and $100 million man, Evan Longoria, finally found his power stroke in 2013.

The bad news? Well, the 4-8 team is still having a mighty difficult time getting anything going at the plate, with their 35 runs scored and .569 OPS as a team topping that of the Miami Marlins — and trust me, they don’t want to be associated with the Marlins.

Longoria did do what he can to add to that total on Monday against the Boston Red Sox, taking the first pitch he saw from Ryan Dempster in the fourth inning deep for a solo shot. Unfortunately, it was not enough, as the team wound up losing a 3-2 pitcher’s duel in walk-off fashion.

Though it hasn’t been the torrid start that the 27-year old got off to in 2012, Longoria isn’t exactly the person you’d want to pin the Rays’ offensive woes on thus far this season. Yes, the .771 OPS isn’t fantastic, but he is hitting an even .300 over 48 PA thus far, and has a stellar .396 OBP to boot.

It’s just hard to make anything of that, though, when he’s really just one of two guys (the other being Ben Zobrist) who is doing anything of note on the offensive front right now.

No, hitting .205 through 12 games to start the season isn’t what the Rays wanted to see, but they’d been through it before (even if it’s not this bad), and it’s been their pitching that’s always been able to get them through. Their 21st-ranked 4.39 ERA hasn’t helped in that department in 2013, however, exacerbating the run-scoring problems that the team has had.

Is it time to hit the panic button? If you know Joe Maddon, you should already know the answer to that already.

This team is all about having trust in the talent, after all, and the manager knows that the Zobrist/Longoria combo in the order is one that is potentially game-changing, and that’s enough to believe that the Rays can turn things around quickly and become the AL East contenders most thought they’d be.

There will be tweaks made here and there to facilitate the offense with more opportunities to do damage; and while he can’t do it all with solo home runs, it moves with Longoria in the middle. If he’s only getting started now, I’d expect this bottom-of-the-barrel scoring drought to end fairly swiftly.

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