The Rays have their one irreplaceable player back, so let the stretch run begin

The Rays have stayed afloat thanks to baseball’s best pitching staff and a manager who is brilliant at mixing and matching whatever pieces he has on a given night. Still, the Rays have scored three runs or less in 11 of their last 14 games and are near the bottom of the American League in a long list of offensive categories. They were 0 for 12 with runners in scoring position last weekend against the Orioles. That they’re still within striking distance of a postseason berth is a tribute both to Manager Joe Maddon and his players.
The Rays are 15-8 with Longoria in the lineup. They went 41-44 without him. They scored 4.61 runs per game with him, 3.86 runs per game without him. Without Longoria, the Rays’ No. 3 and No. 4 hitters batted .227 with 12 home runs and 55 RBI. Maddon used eight different players to replace Longoria. Nine different players have played third for the Rays, most for an American League team since the 2007 Blue Jays.

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