HOUSTON — With all the other noise about moves the Rays did make, shouldn’t have made and needed to consider, veteran Evan Longoria has maintained a steady voice that it ultimately only matters if they start winning.
And Tuesday, the team leader led the way with the second cycle in franchise history as the Rays, at least temporarily, halted their skid with a 6-4 win over the American League-best Astros.
“Obviously they don’t come very often,” Longoria said. “It was kind of surreal.”
With Monday’s lopsided loss their ninth in 12 games, the Rays needed to get off to a good start Tuesday. Longoria took care of that with a two-run homer, which was followed by a Logan Morrison blast for a 3-0 lead.
Longoria delivered again in the third, following Lucas Duda‘s double with a drive to right that he turned into a triple and scoring on Adeiny Hechavarria‘s single. At the time, Astros third baseman Alex Bregman said something about getting the two hard legs of the cycle out of the way, but Longoria shrugged it off.
But when he singled in the seventh, he started thinking about it a lot.
Then batting with two outs in the ninth, Longoria lashed a ball into the leftfield corner and raced to second, called out initially and then safe after a replay review, to complete the cycle.
“It’s tough when you’re thinking about it,” Longoria said. “I would’ve probably been a little more confident or comfortable had I only needed a single.”
After lacing the ball into the corner, Longoria put his head down, made a quick turn at first and went hard to second, sliding in head first.
“He looked like Mallex (Smith, the speedy outfielder) running around (first),” manager Kevin Cash cracked. “He could smell it, so that was exciting.”
Longoria was initially called out by James Hoye, but a crew chief replay review — that lasted 1:05 — changed the call and history, as Longoria joined B.J. Upton (Oct. 2, 2009) as the only Rays to hit for the cycle.
“When I hit the ball actually it could have been caught and I wouldn’t have known it because I put my head down and was runing as hard as I could,” Longoria said.
“I felt like I was safe initially and I was just hoping the review showed it. I was happy either way, but obviously you get greedy in that moment and hope that you’re safe for personal reasons, and you can say you hit for the cycle.”
It was the first cycle since MLB implemented expanded replay in 2014 in which one of the hits involved a replay challenge, per the Elias Sports Bureau.
Staked to a 5-0 lead, Rays All-Star starter Chris Archer let the Astros back in. First with two homers in the fifth — six pitches apart — that extended the team record to 19 straight games of giving up a long ball. Then by allowing two hits, and a run, to start the seventh, ending his night.
Cash went to that retooled bullpen aggressively, using three relievers to get out of that inning. Steve Cishek gave up a run but got two outs in the three batters he faced, Dan Jennings was one and done with a walk and Tommy Hunter got the biggest out, retiring sizzling Jose Altuve on a ground out.
Hunter then came back out to work the eighth, extending to 10 his streak of consecutive batters retired over three appearances, and logging his 16th scoreless outing in his last 17.
.”Tommy Hunter, probably MVP of the day to come in there and quiet that inning and then go out there with a pretty simple eighth,” Cash said.
Alex Colome then closed for his AL-high 31st save.
Good bounce back win,” Cash said, as his team improved to 55-53.
Kiermaier’s sore back to push back return
CF Kevin Kiermaier‘s return to the Rays lineup will be delayed past his Aug. 8 target due to back trouble. Kiermaier has been having “significant pain” when bending to field ground balls, Cash said, and has been shut down from all baseball activities for the rest of the week. “Little movements are grabbing him,” Cash said. “I don’t think this is a major thing, but it is going to derail Aug. 8-9 I would think.”
Rookie RHP Austin Pruitt grew up and went to high school and college in the Houston area, so starting tonight against his hometown Astros is obviously a big deal. “It’s going to be pretty special,” he said. “There’s going to be lots of family and friends that are going to be there and support me.” Pruitt attended games at Minute Maid Park as a kid and pitched there twice in college tournaments.
Needing a fresh arm for the bullpen, the Rays called up RHP Ryne Stanek, who showed marked improvement at Triple-A Durham, and sent down RHP Chase Whitley, who had the unfortunate distinction of being the reliever who could be optioned to the minors. … OF Shane Peterson (again) cleared waivers and (again) accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A Durham.
. RF Steven Souza Jr. said he could play through the soreness in the left foot bruised by a foul ball Monday, but that changed during batting practice. Mallex Smith moved to right and Peter Bourjos started in center.
. Longoria also broke Carl Crawford‘s franchise record by scoring his 766th run.
. Fox Sports Sun reported July was the most watched month for Rays games since August 2015, featuring eight of the top nine most watched games, and an increase of 14 over the full-season average. Overall, the increase over last year is just 1 percent.
. C Jesus Sucre on Monday became the seventh position player in team history to take the mound, allowing three runs in the eighth.
. RHP Jake Odorizzi, on the DL with a back strain, is slated to throw a bullpen today at the Trop.