ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. Luke Scott was packing near his locker, preparing for a road trip to South Florida and points beyond in what can be a frustrating game, more nights that can either humble or reward. He accepts the gratifying moments when they come, never taking them for granted, because he knows how hard they can be to earn.
Just imagine if you had a tail, and you go around and around trying to catch it, and you cant, said Scott, after the Tampa Bay Rays designated hitter went 3 for 5 in his teams 7-6 victory over the Miami Marlins on Tuesday at Tropicana Field. Just imagine that you work hard at something every day and youre giving it your all, and youre not seeing fruit from it. Its a very difficult thing to go home at the end of the day. All you can do is keep playing and keep praying.
Scott played well enough Tuesday to push past his hard moments of late. The three hits tied his season high. They came after he entered hitless in his past 14 at-bats, dating to a victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on May 21.
For him, the tail analogy is apt, because this has been a season of scramble from the start. He missed the first 25 games because of a right calf strain sustained due to an odd reason: too much alkaline water. His chase began with trial.
Then, upon his return, he began what can be a taxing task: Trying to find feel. Trying to find comfort. Trying to find a solution to what sometimes can be a punishing, humbling existence in the batters box. And the past week offered no shortage of humility: He entered Tuesday with a season-low .242 batting average after a four-game hitless slump.
This game is about a feel, said Scott, who raised his average to .268. When you dont have a feel, things dont go right. I havent really had a good feel this season. Ive had some days where I felt OK. Everything has been kind of a battle.
That may be true, but Scott has had productive moments this month. Those, he knows, are worth remembering when the hits fade and frustrations rise. He earned an RBI in four consecutive games, from May 16-19 against the Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles, tying a career-long streak for the sixth time, the last occurring April 27-May 1, 2011, when he was with the Orioles.
On Tuesday, Scott was mostly clean and efficient, smart and aware against searching Marlins pitching. He earned two singles and a double, which began the Rays rally from a 5-3 deficit in the sixth inning.
Scott also proved valuable in the eighth, when Tampa Bay trailed 6-5. With left-hander Mike Dunn on in relief and one out, Scott poked an 88-mph slider into center field. Three batters later, after Desmond Jennings singled to left and Sean Rodriguez struck out looking, Yunel Escobar slapped a single to left field to score Scott from second base.
This was the sight of a comeback: After he completed his slide past home plate, Scott clapped his hands and pointed to Escobar. He had beaten the frustration for now.
For me, Luke tends to be a little bit streaky, Rays manager Joe Maddon said. When that streak is hot, heads-up, it glares. It gets really good. To get him toasty would be very good. That would really benefit us. This is a tough road trip coming up too Miami, then Clevelands playing well, and Detroit is really good. We need all the help we can get.
In the coming months, that is what Tampa Bay needs from Scott: Timely, effective hitting, like what he showed in the sixth and eighth innings Tuesday. The Rays need someone who can spark a rally when necessary. They need him to bring personality to the plate, in addition to his presence in the clubhouse.
An eccentric approach, of course, is a given with him. The famed boar head, made popular at Charlotte Sports Park during spring training, remains a fixture in his corner stall at Tropicana Field. As do the cracks with infielder Ryan Roberts, who shares a space nearby. Scott enhances the Rays chemistry.
However, if Scott can consistently produce, his value will be even more noticeable. And success, like the amount he enjoyed Tuesday night, will be celebrated.
Success in this game is so special, Scott said, shortly before walking away. Thats why you celebrate it.
You can follow Andrew Astleford on Twitter @aastleford or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.