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Tuesday, Jun 19, 2018
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Tampa Bay Rays

Rays notes: Longoria still hasn’t settled into groove

Evan Longoria drove in all three runs for the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday and has five RBIs in the first two games of the series at Houston.

Longoria also hit his team-leading eighth home run, a two-run liner over the left-field wall, and assumed the team lead with 33 RBIs.

Despite his success the past couple of days, Longoria said his presence at the plate is not where he wants it.

“There hasn’t been a time where I’ve been real, real comfortable,’’ Longoria said. “But if I can continue to try to find a way to produce a little bit, hopefully that stretch will come where it feels a little bit easier. But we say it all the time: If this game was easy, everyone would do it. I’m just continuing to try to make the adjustments.’’

If Longoria can start to heat up offensively, it could have a ripple effect through the lineup.

“Once he starts getting elevated like that, the ball really came off his bat hot (on the home run), and that was nice to see,’’ manager Joe Maddon said.

Price is right

The numbers don’t show it, but LHP David Price feels like he has never pitched better in his career.

Price enters today’s scheduled start with a 4-6 record, a 3.97 ERA and 105 hits allowed in 99 2⁄3 innings. But his 111 strikeouts are second in the majors, and his strikeout-to-walk ratio of 11.1 would be the best in baseball history if sustained through the season — Price has issued only 10 walks.

“I feel like every pitch has gotten better, and I feel like hands down I am a better pitcher now than I have ever been in my entire life,’’ Price said. “I feel I’m a complete pitcher and have a really good idea of what I’m doing out on the mound, and I feel like for the most part I can execute what I’m trying to do. And that’s fun.’’

Hanigan breaks through

C Ryan Hanigan, like many of the Rays’ hitters of late, endured his share of offensive woes both before and after he spent time on the disabled list with a hamstring issue. After going hitless in his first two at-bats Friday, Hanigan saw his string of consecutive at-bats without a hit reach 28 before he finally came through with a pair of hits in his final two plate appearances.

“Yeah, it’s been a while,’’ Hanigan said Saturday. “But I feel good. Just keep trying to have good at-bats, be aggressive on pitches. It’s a long year, so I’ll be fine.’’

Hanigan picked up another hit Saturday with a single in the seventh.

No deck shuffling

Maddon reverted to the same lineup for Saturday’s game as he used in Friday’s 6-1 victory, somewhat of a rarity for a manager who often moves players into different positions on the field, as well as in the batting order.

“For those fans that are really concerned about me, we have been seeing right-handers and we are going to see right-handers,’’ Maddon said.

Protection needed

While the top part of the order has been producing, Maddon said he’s looking for more out of the bottom part of the lineup, particularly out of the eighth and ninth spots, occupied by SS Yunel Escobar and Hanigan the past two games.

“I’m still concerned with (Matt) Joyce, because he’s starting to swing the bat better and you can already see teams wanting to maybe pitch around him,’’ Maddon said. “So it’s really important that Escobar and Hanny really pick it up behind him, too.’’

While Hanigan has three hits in his past two games, Escobar is in an 0-for-14 slide after going 0-for-4 on Saturday.

Extra innings

Kevin Kiermaier has 12 extra-base hits in his first 21 career games, the most for any player in Rays history to start a career. … Former Rays RHP Heath Bell, who was released earlier this season, signed a minor-league contract with the New York Yankees and was assigned to Triple-A Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. … Ben Zobrist snapped an 0-for-26 streak with runners in scoring position with his two-run triple Friday. … David DeJesus has reached base in his past 12 starts.

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