If there was a constant in the Rays lineup throughout the last few years, it has been that Evan Longoria would hit, and hit for power. Aside from a down year in 2010, Longoria had homered in roughly five percent of his at bats throughout his career, and had typically been the most productive bat in the Rays lineup. If there is one hitter one would think that the Rays would not have to worry about, it would be Longoria.
Yet, with the Rays on the verge of reaching the postseason where Longoria’s power bat would be needed, the power has gone out. Since August 26th, Longoria has struggled mightily, producing a batting line of only .209/.296/.300 in his last 29 games. A .300 slugging percentage for Longoria? That, to paraphrase Vizzini, would seem inconceivable.
However, that is where things stand with Longoria. In that time frame, covering his last 110 at bats heading into last night, Longoria has seven extra base hits. Of those seven extra base hits, only one has left the yard. One home run in 110 at bats? That just is not right, especially for a player the caliber of Longoria.
Looking at Longoria’s season, he is actually on pace for one of his worst seasons since joining the majors. His OPS is the worst of his career, and his batting average presently is better than his rough 2011 season. The biggest issue may actually be his strikeout to walk rate. While Longoria is walking at a 10.3% rate, that mark is his lowest since his rookie year. Meanwhile, he has struck out 155 times, striking out in 23.2% of his at bats. Those problems with contact have continued during his cold streak, as Longoria has struck out 28 times in those 110 at bats.
Last night, however, there was a spark. Longoria hit two home runs, including the three run blast that turned out to be the game winner. Although he struck out once in the game, this may still have been the outing that Longoria needed to snap his power outage.
Obviously, in order to hit, and hit for power, one needs to make contact. For whatever reason, Evan Longoria has struggled to make consistent contact this season, especially as of late. Hopefully, his performance last night will be the catalyst that Longoria needed to be ready for the playoffs.