- The Washington Times - Monday, May 26, 2008

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Evan Longoria came up big again.

The rookie third baseman drove in the winning run with a double in the ninth inning as the Tampa Bay Rays completed a three-game sweep with a 5-4 victory over the Baltimore Orioles yesterday.

“He’s going to keep getting better,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “He’s building his confidence right now. He’s playing with a lot more confidence, especially offensively.”

Carlos Pena drew a one-out walk in the ninth off George Sherrill (1-1) and scored on Longoria’s double to center. Longoria also caused Baltimore problems Saturday, hitting two homers and driving in six runs in Tampa Bay’s 11-4 victory.

“I love being in that situation,” Longoria said. “I’m looking forward to getting up there and at least getting a chance to win the game.”

The Orioles have lost five of six and fell into last place in the AL East at 24-25.

Troy Percival (1-0) recorded the final two outs in the ninth for the win. The Rays are just the fifth team — joining the 2001 Philadelphia Phillies, 1999 Arizona Diamondbacks, 1992 Orioles and 1988 Cleveland Indians — to be 10 games or more above .500 to start play on Memorial Day after losing at least 95 games the previous season.

Pena hit a two-run shot during a four-run third as Tampa Bay took a 4-1 lead. Like Longoria, Pena has been a problem for the Orioles: In 11 games against Baltimore, he has five homers and 18 RBI, and in 38 games against all other opponents he has hit just five homers and had 11 RBI.

“We pick each other up,” Pena said. “We’re playing together. We’re playing as a team. It’s a great chemistry, so when you win, it’s so much fun. It’s a blast coming to the ballpark every single day.”

Eric Hinske added a run-scoring single and Dioner Navarro drove in a run with a double in the third for the Rays, who have won 15 of 16 at home. Tampa Bay is 22-9 since April 22 and is 10 games over .500 (30-20) for the first time in franchise history.

“You’ve got to give the Rays a lot of credit,” Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. “They found a way to win.”

Rays starter James Shields allowed four runs and eight hits over eight innings. He struck out three and walked one.

“This team fights to the end,” he said. “I’m just trying to keep them in the game.”

Baltimore right-hander Daniel Cabrera gave up four runs, nine hits, six walks and had one strikeout in 52/3 innings.

“My control was not there today,” he said. “When you are behind that is what you get. They will hit the ball.”

Adam Jones drove in a run in the fifth with a double that cut the Orioles‘ deficit to 4-2. Melvin Mora, who was 0-for-16 on the current trip, had an RBI single, and Aubrey Huff hit a solo homer that tied it at 4-4 one inning later.

Huff, who started his major league career with the Rays, has three homers and seven RBI this season against his old team.

Ramon Hernandez put the Orioles ahead 1-0 on a single in the second.

“Our outlook is, sooner or later, this thing is going to turn in our favor,” Trembley said.

The Rays loaded the bases with one out in the first but failed to score when Longoria flew out to right and Hinske’s drive to left was caught on the warning track by Jay Payton.

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