The Tampa Bay Rays were never much of a threat offensively before this season, but now that’s changed, with Evan Longoria and Matt Joyce leading the way.
Both came up huge in the Rays’ recent series against the AL East-leading Boston Red Sox. Longoria collected four hits, three of which were home runs, while Joyce’s four hits included two long balls. Joyce also found himself in the middle of a benches-clearing gathering (or brawl) during Monday night’s sixth inning.
Going forward, these two must continue their hot hitting if the Rays have any chance of playing meaningful baseball come October. They certainly have the ability, evidenced by their batting averages (.305 for Longoria and .259 for Joyce). A lot of that came in May and June, around the same time Tampa Bay’s offense took off.
Luckily for the Rays, Longoria has experience coming through in clutch situations. Remember the final game of 2011? Down 8-0 to the New York Yankees, he hit a three-run homer that started the incredible comeback before winning it with another long ball, sending them to the postseason.
Joyce, on the other hand, usually starts slow before heating up. May and June are by far his best months, and this year’s been no different in that regard. But with other guys (Luke Scott, anyone?) struggling mightily, he’ll have to assist Longoria in sparking a team that still has difficulties scoring runs.
Either way, the Rays need both of these guys healthy and producing to make postseason baseball a possibility. If that doesn’t happen, Tampa Bay will likely face another long, playoff-less offseason.