There is a scene in the movie "The Natural" where the team is taking batting practice and one of the Knights, John Olsen, is wearing a lightning bolt patch on his jersey, the same one Roy Hobbs has on his bat.
His teammates rib him, of course, but then Olsen starts stinging the ball.
Impressive, they say. He came alive, they say.
"There seems to be a mistake," one of the players jokes, "Olsen's hitting the ball."
Oh, it was no joke, and soon all the Knights are wearing lightning bolts on their jerseys and the team left for dead heads to the World Series, thanks in large part to the presence of Roy Hobbs, the natural.
And that brings us to the present day Rays.
Now, no one is suggesting Evan Longoria is Roy Hobbs, although he swings a much better bat than Robert Redford, but have you noticed how much better the offense is since Longoria rejoined the lineup last Tuesday?
As manager Joe Maddon likes to say, it's toasty.
Up and down the order.
Leadoff hitter Desmond Jennings is getting on base. The middle of the order is hitting. The bottom of the order is driving in runs.
Maddon calls this the trickledown effect of having Longoria's bat in the heart of the order. The No. 3 hitter is seeing better pitches to hit. Jeff Keppinger has been dropped to seventh.
It's never a bad thing when a manager can drop a .323 hitter to seventh.
The Rays offense, in hibernation most of the summer as it waited for Longoria's much publicized left hamstring to heal well enough for him to return, has come alive.
Friday night's outburst against the Twins at Target Field ran the count to 26 runs on 42 hits in the four games since Longoria's return. The offense is hitting .436 with runners in scoring position during those four games.
Make no mistake, the offense is hitting .
True, four games does not a season make, but it has been a long time since the Rays bats have been swung with this much swagger.
Can one guy be the root of all this production?
Why not? Longoria is the leader of the team. He's the three-time all-star. The two-time gold glove-winning third baseman. He delivered the Rays to the Wild Card with his game-winning home run in 162.
He is the guy who rises to the occasion and has the "it" quality about him that can pull his team along.
The offense is designed around Longoria's bat, and with it, the Rays were off to a good start to the season. Then Longoria hurt his hamstring and missed 85 games and the offense seemed to fade away. They scored only six runs in the four games prior to Longoria's return, zero runs in the final two.
Now Longoria's back, and the boys are putting together big innings and big games.
Jennings, whom Maddon calls the catalyst of the offense, is 6-for-11 with six runs, four doubles and an RBI in the three games he played since Longoria was activated.
B.J. Upton has had a hit in all four games, three of them doubles. He's driven in four runs and scored three times.
Joyce is 4-for-12 with four RBI, three runs, a double and a home run in the three games batting ahead of Longoria in the order.
The seventh, eighth and ninth hitters are batting a combined .390 with nine RBI, seven runs and three doubles. Both Jose Lobaton and Jose Molina had three-RBI games while batting ninth.
The team batting average, bloated by a pair of 13-hit games, is .309 during this run. The average was .262 in the first two games when the Rays combined to score seven runs, and .262 is better than the .230 the Rays were hitting when Longoria was activated.
Longoria, by the way, was 5-for-15 with four RBI entering Saturday's action. And after Friday's win the Rays improved to 19-8 this season with him in the lineup.
Now, this isn't Hollywood, so the question for the day is: Will this last?
Well, no one will confuse them with the Texas Rangers. The name of the Rays game is pitching and defense. Give them four, maybe five runs and this team is tough to beat.
With Longoria back in the lineup, that seems possible.