In 14 games, the Rays? third baseman is hitting .362 (21-for-58) with a 1.280 OPS, eight home runs and 26 RBIs. More than one-third of his hits have left the yard, and he?s also scored 17 runs. In other words, he?s accounted for 50 percent of Tampa?s 86 runs against Boston in 2009.
That?s a one-man wrecking crew. If the Red Sox were a building, they?d be rubble.
It?s time to consider intentionally walking Longoria every time he steps to the plate. Since four or five intentional free passes is poor form — giving a hitter first base with two outs and nobody on in the first inning remains frowned upon — unintentionally intentionally walk him. Whatever the Red Sox decide to do, they need to stop giving Longoria any good pitches to hit.
This strategy goes counter to every competitive instinct in major league pitchers. They didn?t get to the Show by blinking in the face of a challenge, but discretion is the better part of valor in this case.
If Longoria wants to get a hit, make him swing at a pitch that?s closer to Cuba than the strike zone. Throw the ball 57 feet. Have it cross home on a bounce. Roll it to the plate if necessary. Do whatever it takes to make sure Longoria doesn?t beat you with his bat. Put the pressure on the other Rays.
If Longoria can make contact with a gopher ball or put good wood on an Eephus pitch, more power to him. Tip the cap, and learn from the mistake. The next time he?s up, deliver the pitch in another county. But enough with the fat, belt-high fastballs down the middle of the zone. That is a recipe for whip lash, an early shower and long faces.
From now on, the only good pitches Longoria should see when the Rays are playing the Red Sox are in batting practice. This could get Longoria outside his comfort zone and force him into bad habits. If he starts getting frustrated by not seeing any strikes, he might start pressing and screw up his mechanics by going after bad balls.
Of course, getting him to chase pitches and turn into Mario Mendoza is a long shot. (After going undrafted out of high school and not even being offered one Division I college scholarship, Longoria has worked hard to join baseball?s elite, and now his mental approach is becoming the stuff of legend.) But it?s worth a shot.
Nothing else the Red Sox have done has been able to render him ineffective.