ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. » Evan Longoria is not letting a hitting slump impact his defense.
The All-Star third baseman turned Miguel Cabrera’s bases-loaded grounder behind the bag into a nifty game-ending double play as the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Detroit Tigers 3-2 last night.
"There’s not many guys that would have made the play Longoria made," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. "He made a great play. He’s unbelievably accurate throwing to second base for double plays."
Rays closer Rafael Soriano struggled in the ninth before getting his 27th save. After loading the bases with one out, he induced the grounder from Cabrera that set up Longoria’s key play.
"I was hoping he’d hit it a little harder, so I didn’t have to make such a split-second decision," Longoria said. "Once I fielded it, I figured I got it in enough time that I could hopefully get the guy at second and we could turn it. I’m glad it worked out the way it did."
Longoria is hitless over his last 18 at-bats and has just two homers in the last 31 games.
"That’s what I love about our guys. That fearless aspect about the way we play," Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. "Longo’s not worried about making a mistake. That’s where the fearless aspect comes in. If you’re not concerned about making a mistake, you do what Longo did. If you’re worried about making a mistake, you take the safe way out."
James Shields (9-9) gave up two runs and nine hits over 6 2/3 innings one day after teammate Matt Garza threw the Rays’ first no-hitter.
Tampa Bay went up 3-2 when Joyce, who hit a grand slam Monday, had a broken-bat, run-scoring double off Justin Verlander (12-6) during the sixth.
"That’s tough. I made the pitch I wanted to," said Verlander, who is 7-2 in his last nine decisions. "I got the result. I jammed him. He got enough barrel on it, hit it in the right spot and was able to get a bloop double."
Verlander allowed three runs and five hits in his second complete game of the season.
Carlos Pena put the Rays ahead 2-0 on a two-run homer in the first.
Rays center fielder B.J. Upton left in the first inning with a sprained left ankle and may be out of the lineup for a few days. He was hurt while moving in on Will Rhymes’ one-out single.