Rays win fourth straight behind offense
Longoria's three-hit, three-RBI night backs Sonnanstine
ST. PETERSBURG -- Scoring runs has been a difficult proposition for the Rays all season, just not Saturday night.
Almost a week after Andy Sonnanstine commented in Kansas City -- something to the effect that he felt like he had to pitch a shutout to win -- the right-hander made his next start and his teammates responded as if to say, "All you had to do was ask" in a 9-3 Rays win over the Tigers in front of a sellout crowd of 36,048 at Tropicana Field.
"I kind of felt bad about those comments in Kansas City and the best way I can put it was, it was an emotional reaction to a pretty tough loss for me," said Sonnanstine, who held the Tigers to two runs on six hits to earn his 11th win of the season after losing his previous three starts. "I like being the stopper. I like winning after we lose. Tonight, I felt like I was my own stopper. The last three starts not being that great -- really boosted my confidence. ... This is probably the best I've felt in the last few starts, probably since the All-Star break."
The win extended the Rays' current winning streak to four while moving their overall record to 65-44 and their home record to 42-16. In the process, the Rays earned their 14th series win in their last 15 series at Tropicana Field and moved to 15-1 when 30,000 or more show up to watch them under the dome.
Shawn Riggans drew a one-out walk off Tigers starter Kenny Rogers in the second inning to start the Rays' first rally of the night. Jason Bartlett followed with a single before B.J. Upton's two-out ground-rule double scored Riggans. Carl Crawford's single to center drove home Bartlett and Upton. The speedy Crawford then scored from first on Evan Longoria's double to left to give the Rays a 4-0 lead.
The Rays added three more runs in the fourth when Bartlett scored on a passed ball, Longoria singled home another, and Gabe Gross walked with the bases loaded to give the Rays a 7-2 lead.
Rogers lasted just 3 1/3 innings despite striking out a season-high eight, but the Rays worked the veteran left-hander for 109 pitches.
"I felt fine, my stuff was good," Rogers said. "The most overrated stat in the big leagues is strikeouts. I'm not a guy that looks for them. Yeah, I got a few, but they really didn't help me minimize my damage out there. Either way, I'm trying to get outs and strikeouts take me a little longer for me to get and a lot more energy, so it didn't lend to our chances to win, that's for sure."
Longoria hit a solo home run off former Ray Casey Fossum to lead off the sixth to give the Rays an 8-2 lead, and Riggans added an RBI double to push the team's lead to 9-2.
"I thought Carl's hit [in the second] was a really big hit," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "The intensity of each at-bat in that inning was tremendous. ... I liked the offensive flow tonight. I'm just seeing a higher quality of at-bat right now. It's about not trying to hit home runs. Your highest batting average is going to be on line drives and ground balls. If we can go out there and work those quality at-bats, we're going to score some runs."
Longoria felt like the offense began coming together in Friday night's 5-2 Rays win.
On Friday night, "you saw the offense kind of start turning, we started stringing some hits together," Longoria said. "Finally, we put up a big number for the pitching staff and I think they needed that mentally from grinding it out.
"Everybody knows we haven't been hitting with runners in scoring position with nobody out or two outs. And for that to turn and for us to make Rogers work as hard as he had to, I think he had 12 guys go to full count with him. And he's the kind of guy who is going to pitch on the corners and get you to swing at his pitches. So we did a good job of laying off of them and hitting the ones we could handle."
Longoria's home run was his 21st of the season and tied him with Jonny Gomes for the Rays' rookie home run record set in 2005.
"The personal accolades are awesome and I'll have time in the offseason to enjoy them," Longoria said. "But what we're doing as a team now is a more exciting thing."
Meanwhile, Tigers manager Jim Leyland lamented about the disparity in how each team used its hits, which spelled out the difference between winning and losing.
"We had 11 hits and three runs," Leyland said. "They had 11 hits and nine runs. That's not good. ... They got some hits with men on and we didn't do much of that."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.