With Evan Longoria providing some late-game heroics in their latest victory, the Tampa Bay Rays have been finding ways to slug out wins after a slow start to their homestand.
Longoria will try to stay hot and help the Rays to a season-high fifth straight win and a three-game sweep of the San Diego Padres on Sunday at Tropicana Field.One out away from falling to 3-3 on the homestand, Longoria hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth off Padres closer Huston Street to rally Tampa Bay to an 8-7 win Saturday.Street blew his first save in nine chances for San Diego (16-20), which has lost two in a row after winning 11 of 14."Tremendous comeback by our guys," Padres manager Bud Black said. "The bullpen did a good job. We fell one pitch short in the end."The Rays (18-18) won their fourth straight to get back to .500 for the first time since April 7, though they had to rally after Jesus Guzman's pinch-hit grand slam off Jeremy Hellickson helped San Diego overcome a 6-2 deficit in the seventh.If the Padres had held on, it would have been the 14th game the Rays lost after leading, including two in a row against Toronto to open the 10-game homestand."You need games like this, whether it's myself or anybody coming through in the clutch, to kind of boost morale and jump-start everything," Longoria said.The star third baseman is on quite a roll, hitting .424 with 15 RBIs over his last 14 games and .480 (12 for 25) with three homers on the homestand.Longoria has led a Tampa Bay offense that's averaged 6.6 runs while hitting .297 with 17 homers over the last 13 games. The Rays have done a lot of their damage against left-handers with a .354 average and four homers during that span.Longoria is 16 for 41 with six extra-base hits against lefties, while infielder Ryan Roberts is 13 for 35 with two homers in those matchups.That doesn't bode well for southpaw Eric Stults (3-2, 4.50 ERA), who looks to give the Padres his third straight quality start.After going 1-2 with a 6.95 ERA over a four-start stretch, Stults has allowed three runs over 13 innings in his last two against NL-worst clubs Chicago and Miami.While he's never faced the Rays, Stults is 1-0 with a 1.66 ERA in three career starts against AL opponents.Tampa Bay hopes right-hander Roberto Hernandez (1-4, 4.66) can deliver another strong performance at Tropicana Field in his first meeting the Padres.Hernandez has a 6.50 ERA while losing each of his three road starts, but he's struck out 14 and allowed two runs over 12 innings in his last two at home.Strikeouts have been a concern for the Padres, who have reached double digits in three straight games. They've whiffed 39 times during that span and are among the major league leaders with 300.Carlos Quentin has struck out four times in his last six at-bats and is 1 for 24 in his last nine games, though he's 3 for 9 with two homers lifetime against Hernandez.Nick Hundley has seven strikeouts while going hitless in 20 at-bats over his last seven games.