One reason the Tampa Bay Rays are still trying to recover from a 24-42 start is a career-worst season from star third baseman Evan Longoria. Coming into the two-game series with the St. Louis Cardinals, Longoria was hitting .262 with 11 home runs and a shocking .394 slugging percentage.
Yet in the ninth inning at Busch Stadium, Longoria homered to left field off Cardinals’ reliever Jason Motte. Longoria knocked in his 49th RBI on the season and the 589th RBI of his career to move past Carl Crawford for the franchise lead.
It also put the lid on a convincing 7-2 victory.
The Rays roughed up Cardinals’ ace Adam Wainwright for four runs in 4.2 innings. Wainwright was coming off a start in the All-Star game and led the National League in wins with 12, ERA at 1.83 and WAR at 5.0.
The sense of urgency felt intense on both sides because the Cardinals are considered to be one of the leading candidates to acquire the Rays’ ace David Price. The Cardinals have the need and the assets to satisfy the Rays’ demand, and thus an extra incentive in what would otherwise be a random interleague game.
But for a month now, the Rays have been one of the best teams in baseball and they proved it again by beating Wainwright and the Cardinals.
The Rays have won six games in a row and are 21-9 in their last 30 games. Only the Los Angeles Angels have a better record over that span.
The odds of making the postseason are still under 10%, but the Rays are 5 1/2 games back of the Seattle Mariners in the American League wild card race. The Rays are playing so well and are so close now they have to keep Price. And if Longoria wakes up, the Rays may be thinking bigger than the wild card.