Longoria homers as Garza fans nine
Slugger plates three runs, Soriano picks up first save
ST. PETERSBURG -- Pounding the strike zone is Matt Garza's mantra, and pounding the strike zone he did Wednesday night, overpowering the Orioles to lead the Rays to a 4-3 win in front of a crowd of 15,220 at Tropicana Field.
"[Garza is] definitely focused and motivated right now," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "I really believe he's going to have a great year. I believe he came into this camp ready, and I'm a firm believer that he should be among the elite pitchers in this league. He already is, but really set himself apart. He's capable of being an annual All-Star."
The victory moved the Rays to 2-0 on the season and gave the team its second come-from-behind win in as many nights. Having already claimed their first series win of the season, the Rays will go for their first sweep Thursday night.
Garza used electric stuff to limit the Orioles to one earned run on four hits while walking two, hitting one and striking out nine in eight innings worked. Of the 114 pitches thrown by the 26-year-old right-hander, 74 were strikes.
"For me, this is who he is," said Kelly Shoppach, who caught Garza on Wednesday night. "He's got some serious stuff."
The Orioles' best chance to get to Garza came in the first, when Miguel Tejada singled home Adam Jones. Another run scored when Carlos Pena dropped a throw from second baseman Reid Brignac that would have been the third out.
"He was a little amped up early in tonight's game," Shoppach said. "Understandably so, as I think [James] Shields was last night and [Kevin] Millwood. That's just kind of how it goes the first time out there. You have a little bit of extra adrenaline.
"He was great. He came off the mound in the first and really understood what he went through in the first. And the breaks that went their way. That was impressive for him to come back and throw seven more shutout innings."
While struggling in the first, Garza began to try and get back to what he did during Spring Training when he dominated opposing hitters.
"In the first inning I was a little over-amped and everything started going quick on me," Garza said. "So I had to try and figure out a way to slow it down and get back to what I was doing.
"So late in that first inning, I slowed down and relaxed, let my defense go to work and just started putting that ball right back in the zone and see what they could do and make them participate for me."
Garza moved to 7-1 with a 2.67 ERA in 10 career starts against the Orioles.
"He's got great stuff," Orioles catcher Matt Wieters said. "He's got a lot of determination on the mound. ... Everything works off his fastball, and when he's got his good fastball he's hard to beat. You get geared up for it, so I think his slider comes off his fastball."
Evan Longoria picked up where he left off Tuesday night when his two-run double in the fifth erased a 2-1 deficit to give the Rays a 3-2 lead. Orioles manager Dave Trembley brought in Cla Meredith to pitch to Longoria in the eighth and Longoria greeted him with his second home run of the season to give the Rays a two-run cushion.
"I had a good Spring Training," said Longoria, who also contributed a 473-foot homer in Tuesday night's 4-3 Rays win. "I felt comfortable coming into the season. And I think as a group we have taken a lot of momentum from Spring Training into the season. So it's all really coming together early and hopefully we can continue it."
Trembley addressed why he brought in Meredith to pitch to Longoria.
"Meredith's a sinkerball guy, gets a ball up," Trembley said. "You don't have [setup man Jim] Johnson tonight. Maybe Johnson's in the game there, if Johnson's available to pitch. Johnson wasn't available to pitch tonight. His arm was tight, he told me before the game, so the matchups weren't there."
The Rays needed the extra run as closer Rafael Soriano struggled in the ninth, but managed to limit the Orioles to one run after retiring Brian Roberts for the game's final out with the tying run on third.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.