|1st Inning: Is Evan Longoria the Best Hitter in the A.L.?||05.09.09 at 4:07 pm ET|
As a 23-year-old, in just his second season, Evan Longoria is clearly an even more devastating hitter than he was a year ago. He’s been less pull-heavy than he was as a rookie, and Longoria says that he feels his emphasis on driving the ball from gap to gap is paying obvious dividends.
So, too, is the constant attention conferred on Carl Crawford whenever he reached base. Crawford is batting in the two-hole precisely in hopes that his base-stealing threat will help give Longoria better pitches to hit. There are a few contributing elements to the cause, but the result has been clear: Longoria is playing at an exceptional level. He came into today with 10 homers (2nd in the A.L. to teammate Carlos Pena), hitting .362 (4th in the A.L.) with a .411 OBP (8th) with a .741 slugging mark (1st).
He continued his sophomore surge in the top of the first against Jon Lester. With Crawford on first, Lester seemed at times preoccupied (understandably so, given that Crawford entered today on pace for 110 steals, and licking his chops at the prospect of becoming the first man in two decades to get 100 thefts). The left-hander three to first three times and operated out of the slide step, navigating to a full count against Longoria.
Lester still delivered an excellent pitch — a 94 mph fastball with sink, that ran below the knees. Even so, Longoria lined a ball off the top of the wall in straightaway center for his 11th homer of the year to give the Rays a 2-0 blast.
Before the game, Maddon suggested that Longoria is in a rare class for a 23-year-old, a place occupied by the likes of Alex Rodriguez and Ken Griffey for precocious greatness. The third baseman continues to show why he is receiving such accolades.
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