August 7, 2012; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria (3) in the dugout during the first inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE
Making his triumphant return, the "Face of the Franchise" gave the Rays a victory by simply stepping onto the field. Batting cleanup, even eight-hole hitter Jose Lobaton felt 'protected' by Longo's presence. When the Unshaven-Evan grounded out to the pitcher in his first at-bat, the Trop swelled with the pride of 1,000 fathers of Military, First-Responding, Firefighting, Concert Pianists.
That swelling turned into a palpable throb in the third inning when Longo came to the plate with the bases loaded. When he drove a ball deep to the opposite field, 10,000 fans drew in their breath in an attempt to suck the ball over the fence. Alas, Evan would merely sac fly out to the track. It was as if 10,000 voices cried out, "TURNING POINT," then were silenced. Then said, "Aw, screw it," and kept up the narrative anyway.
Longo would get a hit on a soft single up the middle in his final at bat before being lifted for pinch-runner Sam Fuld. 1-for-3 with an RBI isn't the worst way to play your first Major League game in three months.
Was there more to this game? Find out after the jump...
While it wasn't a 11K complete game shutout, James Shields delivered eight strong innings of one-run baseball to lead the Rays over the Blue Jays tonight. Shields allowed just two hits and one walk to the powerful, albeit Bautista-less, Jays lineup. He K'd six and induced 14 swinging strikes on 116 pitches (12%). He worked right at 50% fastballs on the night, and varied the offspeed pretty evenly between the change, curve, and the cutter/slider.
Shields' only mistake on the night was in the fourth inning, on a 3-2, D-Hole change-up that Colby Rasmus crushed into the right-centerfield stands. Shileds had K'd him in the first on the same pitch, but missed up with it the second time around.
Fernando Rodney nailed down the ninth for his 33rd save and his 22nd consecutive scoreless inning (a new Rays record.) He did get chided by the home plate umpire for wiping his face on the mound, but that seemed to blow over. He also did something you rarely see: he threw a wild pitch into the stands. He actually bounced the ball and it ricocheted off of Jose Lobaton's shin guards and went over the net behind the plate. Always fun to see.
But, who cares about Shields having another good start, Rodney nailing down a save, or the fact that other boring-blooping offense actually won this game? We all know the real hero of this game was Evan Longoria.