Rays' newfound power spread throughout lineup

Rays' newfound power spread throughout lineup

DETROIT -- Rays hitters have been homering more than nearly every team in the Majors this season.

Steven Souza Jr. and Steve Pearce kept the conga line moving in Friday night's 7-5 win over the Tigers with solo homers, moving the team's total on the season to 60. The Orioles hit four homers in Anaheim on Friday night to overtake the Rays for the top spot on the Major League leaderboard.

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The question that needs to be asked: What's gotten into the Rays?

Souza Jr.'s leadoff homer

"Am I surprised? Yeah," said Rays hitting coach Derek Shelton. "We knew we had some guys who could hit the ball out of the ballpark. Honestly, I don't have any idea."

• Team home run leaders

How has the team's offense transitioned from traditionally being a scrappy unit to a home run-hitting machine?

"We added some guys who can hit home runs," Evan Longoria said. "And they're showing up. Home runs come and go, but if you've got guys in the lineup who can do it, you're going to run into them every now and then."

Pearce added that hitting home runs is "contagious."

"Everybody is hitting them, and we're feeding off each other," Pearce said. "It's somebody new every night. It's coming from every part of the lineup, and that's good team baseball."

The Rays do spread it around. They've gotten home runs from 11 players this month and are just three homers short of the club mark for May (36 in 2009).

Pearce talks about Rays' hitting

"We don't have a guy who is close to the league lead," Longoria said. "But we've got a ton of guys who have four, five, six home runs. We're just getting them top to bottom. Great contributions."

While Shelton has no idea why the Rays are launching home runs at the rate they are, he allowed that the hitters have done well hunting their pitch.

"The biggest part is, 'Don't miss it,'" Shelton said. "When you get it, don't miss it. And I think that's what separates a really good at-bat, because there's probably going to be a pitch to hit in every at-bat. If you miss it, then you're putting yourself at a severe disadvantage with the pitchers. If you get it ... I think we've seen some guys get it, and that's why the ball's been going out of the ballpark."

Longoria agreed with Shelton.

"That speaks to the amount of home runs," the third baseman said. "If you're not missing mistakes, you're usually hitting them pretty hard."

The Rays do have a group of free swingers, and that could lead to some droughts in production at some point this season.

"Depending on the night, it could be [a drought], and that's why our strikeout numbers are as high as they are," Shelton said. "We do have some guys who swing and miss. But we also have some guys that, when they swing and make contact, it goes pretty far. You take a little bit of the good with the bad."

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.