BALTIMORE (AP) — Johnny Damon hit a familiar brand of home run to give Tampa Bay a lead it would never lose.Seven innings later, Evan Longoria sealed the victory with a rare kind of trip around the bases.
Damon had his 27th career leadoff blast, Longoria hit an inside-the-park homer and three RBIs, and the Rays cruised past the Baltimore Orioles 9-6 Sunday.
Justin Ruggiano had three hits for the Rays, who won two of three from Baltimore to clinch their first winning road trip of 11 or more games since 2003. Tampa Bay is 6-4 on a four-city, 11-game journey that concludes with a makeup game in Detroit on Monday.
Damon had two hits and scored twice. The 37-year-old has reached base in a career-best 37 consecutive games, tying the club record set by Ben Grieve in 2001.
“I’m in a position where I’m comfortable,” Damon said. “For a while, we were test-driving a lot of leadoff hitters. I think this could be our best situation with me at the top and (Ben Zobrist) in the two hole.”
Longoria’s first career inside-the-park homer came in the eighth with a man on and put Tampa Bay up 9-5. His liner to centre curled past a hard-charging Adam Jones, and the ball rolled to the wall as Longoria circled the bases.
“I had a shot at it. I just missed the ball,” Jones said.
Longoria reached the plate well ahead of the final relay throw. It was the third inside-the-park homer in the 20-year history of Camden Yards; Butch Davis did it for Texas in 1993 and Detroit’s Shane Halter hit one in 2003.
“You hit balls like that in batting practice all the time, where it comes off the bat and has that knuckle action,” Longoria said. “But it doesn’t happen too often in games.”
It did this time, and the hit was huge.
“I saw he had his glove up so I thought he was going to catch the ball,” Longoria said. “As soon as I saw it take that left turn, I put my head down. As soon as I went around second I knew I was going home. I was gassed by the time I got around third, but I was able to keep chugging and beat the throw.”
Asked to recall the last time he hit an inside-the-park homer, Longoria replied, “I haven’t had one since Little League when they didn’t have fences.”
Tampa Bay starter Wade Davis (5-5) allowed five runs, four earned, and eight hits in six-plus innings. He’s 4-0 lifetime in Baltimore and 2-2 overall against the Orioles this season.
J.P. Howell got three outs for his first save. Kyle Farnsworth was not available because of the flu.
Jones, Vladimir Guerrero and Luke Scott hit solo homers for Baltimore. Fifteen of the Orioles’ last 21 home runs have been solo shots.
Making his third start since returning from the disabled list with an oblique injury, Brian Matusz (1-1) gave up four runs, five hits and four walks in 1 1-3 innings. Riding a seven-game winning streak that started last August, the left-hander retired only three of the 13 batters he faced.
“From the get-go I didn’t get a good feel, (not even) warming up in the bullpen,” Matusz said. “It was just one of those days where you’ve got to be able to battle without your good stuff. They were able to find some holes and get some things going early, and I just wasn’t able to get on track today.”
The Rays batted around in the first inning, getting four hits and stealing four bases, yet they scored only three runs. After Damon hit his eighth homer, Zobrist and Ruggiano singled before Longoria hit a sacrifice fly. Two batters later, Sean Rodriguez got an RBI when Mark Reynolds misplayed his grounder to third.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter was more livid at Matusz about the stolen bases than the hits he yielded.
“It’s been a challenge for him,” Showalter said about Matusz’s inability to hold runners. “Maybe we’ll be able to get his attention a little bit more.”
Jones and Guerrero connected in succession in the bottom half, the second time this season the Orioles hit back-to-back homers.
The only out Matusz got in the second inning came when Damon was caught stealing on a questionable call. Tampa Bay then loaded the bases before Showalter summoned Alfredo Simon, who gave up a sacrifice fly to B.J. Upton.
A double by Casey Kotchman and an RBI single by Damon made it 5-2 in the third.
Baltimore got an unearned run in the bottom half, but Reynolds’ second error of the game and 14th of the season provided Tampa Bay with two unearned runs in the seventh for a 7-3 lead.
In the Baltimore half, after singles by Ryan Adams and Craig Tatum chased Davis, Nick Markakis and Jones hit run-scoring groundouts.
NOTES: Reynolds left in the seventh with a bruised forearm after being struck with a ball hit by Rodriguez in the fifth inning. … Activated from the disabled list after Saturday’s game, Rays shortstop Elliott Johnson (knee sprain) went 0 for 3 with a walk. … The season series is tied at 6.
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