The Tampa Bay Rays have struggled to score runs for most of the season. Meanwhile, Evan Longoria has been injured for most of the season, missing over three months of action with a partially torn left hamstring. As Longoria is the most dangerous hitter in the lineup, his absence was definitely felt.
Prior to his injury, the Rays were sitting at 15-8, having scored 106 runs, which was good enough for a 4.6 runs per game average. The Rays ranked seventh in all of major league baseball, and were fourth in the American League in Runs scored. However, Longoria’s injury severely hampered the rest of the offense. Ben Zobrist was unable to get hits, as practically every ball he put in play was turned into an out. After a hot start, Carlos Pena cooled off. Luke Scott went into a horrific 0-41 slump, then got injured.
Meanwhile, the Rays run scoring suffered, as they scored only 110 runs in May, 23rd in baseball and were more than only Minnesota and Oakland in the American League. June was worse, as the Rays managed to score only 109 runs, 22nd in baseball and eleventh in the American League. In July, Tampa’s run scoring woes worsened, as they plated only 103 runs, again 22nd in baseball, and only ahead of the Indians and the Rangers in the American League.
With this decrease in run scoring came a power outage. The Rays hit a total of 28 home runs in April, again seventh in the majors. Although they managed 30 home runs in May, that ranked only fifteenth. June was much worse, as the Rays slugged only 18 home runs, ahead of only the Giants and Dodgers. The Rays hit for a little more power in July, mashing 21 home runs, but were tied for 23rd in baseball.
During that time, the Rays were 44-47, falling out of first in the American League East and were two games out of the second Wild Card spot. However, since Longoria’s return, the Rays have gone 6-0, scoring 37 runs over that stretch. The power has also started to return, as the Rays have hit six home runs in the last three games. In a week, the Rays have gone from out of the playoffs to become the first Wild Card team. They have also gained 1.5 games on the Yankees, and truly believe that the American League East title is still within grasp.
Evan Longoria may be the most important piece for the Rays offense and playoff aspirations. His presence in the lineup makes life easier for the other players. As Evan Longoria goes, so go the Rays offense.