By Matt Snyder
Remember when the Rays started 1-8? Johnny Damon was hitting miserably, Manny Ramirez abruptly retired after another failed drug test, there was no offense in the aftermath of Evan Longoria's injury and the sky was completely falling.
Well, the Rays are now 13-11, after annihilating the Twins in the day portion of a double-header, 15-3.
Not surprisingly, Damon had a big game (3-4, triple -- which was inches from being a home run -- stolen base, three runs, RBI). Hey, he's not alone. B.J. Upton and Matt Joyce also had three hits while Ben Zobrist exploded, going 4-6 with two doubles, a home run and eight RBI.
It's just that Damon's been at the center of the resurgence for a while.
Beginning with the Rays' first win of the season, a day after Damon called a players only meeting, the 37-year-old Damon has collected a hit in each game he's appeared. Yes, he has a 15-game hitting streak. It's everything he's doing that is making the run special, though. In addition to being a clubhouse leader and spark in the once-inept offense, Damon has been crushing the ball. In those 15 games, he's hitting .355 with four home runs, 20 RBI, 12 runs, two doubles, a triple and a .998 OPS. He's getting clutch hits late in the game, including walk-offs, and sparking rallies early in the game to take the lead -- giving the starting pitchers some surely much-appreciated breathing room. In following Damon's lead, Zobrist and Joyce have gotten hot as well -- not to mention the protection a hot-swinging Damon affords cult hero Sam Fuld atop the order.
Many things are clicking for the Rays right now. If you wanna find a starting point, though, look no further than the venerable Johnny Damon.
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