STEVE NESIUS / AP Enlarge
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Personal accomplishments are nice, but Evan Longoria is more interested in what his performance means to the Tampa Bay Rays.
The all-star third baseman tied a club record for home runs by a rookie, hitting No. 21 and driving in three runs yesterday night to help the AL East leaders maintain their three-game lead in the division with a 9-3 victory over the Detroit Tigers.
Longoria, who's hitting .280 with 67 RBIs after beginning the season in the minors, has five home runs and 14 RBIs in his last 14 games.
"He's one of the best young players in all of baseball. There's no question about that," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.
"I saw him at the All-Star game. Had a chance to meet him. A very pleasant young man. Very impressive. I like him a lot because he's a two-way player. A great third baseman, and a very, very good offensive player. He's a total package."
Carl Crawford contributed a two-run single for the Rays, who have won four straight and set a franchise record for home wins in a season (42) before a sellout crowd of 36,048 at Tropicana Field.
Right-hander Andy Sonnanstine (11-6) allowed two runs and seven hits in six innings, ending a three-game losing streak in which he gave up 14 runs and 22 hits in 19 innings. He hadn't won since combining with J.P. Howell and Grant Balfour to shut out Kansas City on five hits July 5.
Longoria had an RBI double during a four-run second inning against Kenny Rogers (8-8) and a run-scoring single off Freddy Dolsi in the fourth. He led off the sixth against Casey Fossum with his home run.
Miguel Cabrera was 3-for-3, including an RBI double off Al Reyes, for Detroit. Placido Polanco had an RBI double and Magglio Ordonez added a run-scoring single off Sonnanstine when the Tigers trimmed Tampa Bay's lead to 4-2 in the third.
But with Rogers struggling from the beginning, when he walked two and hit a batter to load the bases in the first inning, the Rays pulled away for good with three runs off the Tigers' starter in the fourth.
The 43-year-old left-hander gave up an RBI double to B.J. Upton before Crawford's two-run single and Longoria's double made it 4-0 in the second. Longoria's fourth-inning single off Dolsi drove in the sixth run charged to Rogers, who fanned a season-high eight while giving up seven runs and six hits in 31/3 innings.
"I would have loved to stay out there a little longer and try to find my way out of that last inning, but it's my own fault for not keeping my pitch total down and getting into too many jams," said Rogers, who threw 109 pitches.
The Tigers wasted an opportunity to gain ground on Chicago and Minnesota in the AL Central. Their third straight loss dropped them to 55-55.
"We have 11 hits, three runs. They have 11 hits, nine runs. That's not good," said Leyland, whose batters are 2-for-20 with runners in scoring position in the first two games of the series.
"We just haven't done the job. You've got to go out and win ballgames," the manager added.
"We've hung around [.500] and gotten a little over. We just haven't been able to take the next step to get something really rolling."
NOTE: Tigers reliever Joel Zumaya has tenderness in his upper right arm-shoulder area and will not be available to pitch for at least a few days.27.77118 -82.63932