This year’s version of Evan Longoria has been an enigma wrapped in a puzzle. Is Longoria the player who led the team in hits or the one who hit under the Mendoza line for a month? Is he the star who hit 32 home runs or the the streay hitter who struck out 162 times? Is he the non-factor who went 1 for 16 in the all important Texas series at the Trop or the unstoppable force has carried the Rays offensively over the last two crucial games against Toronto and Texas?
We know at the end of the day that Evan Longoria is a very good player. But he’s more than that–if he doesn’t come through, the Rays’ chances of winning the AL Wild Card Game become slim to none. We’ve heard so much this year about the Rays’ diversified swarming offense. Longoria is a great player, but the Rays have other players that can deliver the key hits if he does not. At times this season, that has been true. But on the whole, it isn’t. The Rays are 43-19 (.694) when Evan Longoria has an RBI and 49-52 (.485) when he hasn’t had one. And it isn’t just the RBIs. There’s a sense of relaxation throughout the entire team when Longoria is playing well. Longoria can make everyone around him better and so often does. But when Longoria is lost, the Rays fall apart. And in a big game like this AL Wild Card contest, that could be even more true. Longoria leaves you shaking you head as he strikes out on ugly swings and leaves you cheering from your basement as he hits one of his patented home runs to right field. If that latter Longoria doesn’t show up tonight, the Rays will be going home. At the end of the day, it’s that simple.