ST. PETERSBURG – Joe Maddon has a bit of a history with the San Francisco Giants.
Understandably, it’s one the Tampa Bay Rays’ manager doesn’t mind talking about.
Maddon was the bench coach for the 2002 Los Angeles Angels, who beat the Giants in seven games to win the franchise’s first World Series.
On Friday, he’ll face them as a manager for the first time when the Giants head to Tropicana Field for the first of a three-game series. It’s the Giants’ first trip to Tropicana Field since 2004, two years before Maddon took over in Tampa Bay.
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“The 2002 World Series was kind of an interesting moment,” Maddon said. “They’ve got some definitely loyal fans – rabid loyal fans.”
The Giants won their second championship in three years last fall but are in last place in the National League West.
“I know they’re struggling a bit this year, but they’ve got a great group,” Maddon said. “Boch (manager Bruce Bochy) is outstanding; I’ve known Boch for a long time. I know Ronny Wotus, their bench coach, for a long time. I did a lot of work on the West Coast and knew all these Giants dudes growing up, but haven’t played against them in a long time.”
LONGO IN A FUNK: Perhaps the most surprising thing about the Rays’ 21-5 run through the month of July was how little Evan Longoria had to do with it.
Longoria went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts Wednesday and batted .194 for the month, striking out 28 times in 94 at-bats.
Maddon hit him second and used him as a designated hitter Wednesday, but neither moved made much of a difference.
“He doesn’t look totally different, mechanically speaking,” Maddon said. “Primarily, it’s the classic moments where you’re probably swinging at balls and taking strikes kind of thing, and just has to clear his mind a little bit and just let it goBut he doesn’t look totally different from a physical perspective – he’s just think differently, I think.”
Maddon credited Longoria for not letting his funk affect his defense – a three-time Gold Glove winner, Longoria has made six errors in 94 games at third this year.
“He has played great defense. Not good defense, great defense,” Maddon said. “That’s a real tribute to how he prepares for the day and what’s he’s all about. The hitting’s going to come back to him.”
THIS WEEKEND’S ROTATION: With Matt Moore on the disabled list with a left elbow injury, the Rays will throw Chris Archer on Friday, followed by David Price and Roberto Hernandez.
Archer and Hernandez are coming off complete games, while Price limited the Boston Red Sox to two hits and one run over 7 1/3 innings Monday at Fenway Park.
UP NEXT: The Rays are off Thursday before the Giants come to the Trop. Madison Bumgarner (10-6, 2.76) will oppose Archer (6-3, 2.39) on Friday.