ST. PETERSBURG -- One of the main reasons for the Rays' success during their September surge lies with their 2-3 punch in the lineup.
Center fielder B.J. Upton and third baseman Evan Longoria have combined to go 7-for-17 (.412) with a homer, five runs, three doubles, two walks and three RBIs in the first two games of the postseason.
Longoria, who missed time with a pesky oblique injury earlier in the season, finished with a career-low .244 batting average. However, the third baseman led the Majors with 86 RBIs from June 11 to season's end. He hit 20 homers following the All-Star break, which was one fewer than Jacoby Ellsbury and Dan Uggla for the big league lead.
Since batting second in the lineup every game starting on Sept. 5 (24 games), Upton is hitting .386 with five homers, 14 RBIs, 10 doubles and 11 walks. In every other month of the season, the 27-year-old hit .239 or lower.
"I try to set the table and let the guys behind me try to drive me in and get in scoring position for those guys," Upton said. "I think if I can put pressure on them on the bases, maybe they'll get better pitches."
Rays manager Joe Maddon said that Upton has been working on his mechanics, particularly getting his foot down sooner.
In his career, Upton is Tampa Bay's all-time postseason leader in hits (27), RBIs (18) and runs (19). Longoria has one more postseason homer than his teammate after his three-run shot on Saturday.
"I just think that B.J. loves this part of the season," Maddon said. "He showed it to us a couple of years ago. He is never afraid of the moment, I tell you that, I promise. So right now I just think that he feels good. I think his mechanics are in better shape than they had been and it's just he's that kind of guy that really digs this kind of moment."