Instead, with the team struggling to stay above water offensively and in the AL race, having been mired of a six-game losing streak in the early goings of August, the third baseman has returned just in time to power them back into the thick of things — quite literally.
Just ask the Toronto Blue Jays, who were the latest victims of the three-time All-Star’s recent power surge, as he gave Tampa Bay an early run with a first-inning solo homer that almost held up as the winning one on Sunday. If you didn’t already realize that hindsight is 20-20, there might even be a pretty good argument to suggest that Jose Lobaton‘s extra-innings heroics in this game would not have occurred if not for Longoria’s big blast.
In fact, that the game played out this way serves only to highlight the fact that the Rays need their team leader more than ever.
With hits in four out of the last five games, all of them being multi-hit performances, it’s no coincidence that Tampa Bay suddenly find themselves winners in four of their last five games. And these aren’t just your run-of-the-mill base knocks either: Longoria has a whopping two homers and four doubles in his last 18 at-bats, which is to say that six out of his last eight hits have gone for extra bases.
And you know … the streak didn’t come out of nowhere. Though it might have been buried underneath the negativity of the team’s long losing streak, the 27-year-old (yes, he is still just entering his prime) has has failed to get on base in a game just once since August 3.
Considering that the team just lost Luke Scott to the DL, and with mini-slumps hitting Wil Myers and Ben Zobrist, let’s just say that offense might just end up coming at a bit of a premium for the team going down the stretch, especially when they’re not likely to regularly blow out teams the rest of the way (and also because they seem content with not acquiring a power bat … yet).
Nah, Longoria might not be “carrying his team to victory” per se; but as was the case on Sunday, having someone who could provide that extra run in a 2-1 game in any of his at-bats will simply invaluable to the Rays’ playoff hopes.