Longoria belts way into history
Rookie homers on first playoff pitch he sees, adds second shot
ST. PETERSBURG -- Evan Longoria's cell phone will undoubtedly be flooded with messages after the performance he gave during the Rays' 6-4 win over the White Sox in Game 1 of the American League Division Series on Thursday.
Longoria plans on making a call of his own, too.
"He won't call me," Longoria said with a laugh. "I'll probably have to call him."
While he shares that rare company with Gaetti, Longoria provided a show that was unprecedented for a rookie. This was the 22-year-old third baseman's first trip to the playoffs, whereas Gaetti was in his seventh season with the Twins when he accomplished the same feat against the Tigers in Game 1 of the 1987 AL Championship Series.
That made Longoria's showing unique.
"It was a little different day for a rookie player," Longoria said.
Longoria began his assault in the second inning, when he drilled the first pitch he received from White Sox starter Javier Vazquez into the left-center-field seats for a solo blast that put the Rays ahead, 1-0. That marked the first postseason run in Tampa Bay's history and made Longoria the 30th player to go yard in his first career playoff at-bat.
In third, Longoria violently pulled an 0-1 offering from Vazquez for another solo shot, handing Tampa Bay a 4-3 lead in the process. Longoria lifted the pitch high above left field, where the baseball hit the "C" catwalk -- an estimated 125 feet above the field. After rounding third base, Longoria clapped his hands hard and let out a yell before crossing home plate.
Later in the game, Tampa Bay's Eric Hinske let Longoria in on the fact that the rook had done something only one other player had done before.
|Courtesy of David Vincent of SABR|
Reached by phone near his home in Louisiana, Gaetti was proud to be linked to Longoria.
"It's kind of special that it's somebody that I know," Gaetti said. "I wish he would have gone deep for a third time. But I'm really proud of him and happy for the Rays. He's actually the best all-around young player that I've coached in the Minor Leagues."
Truth be told, Longoria only spent 38 games under Gaetti's watch at Triple-A over the past two seasons. After being selected by the Rays in the first round of the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, it's been a rapid ascent to the big leagues for the talented third baseman.
This season for Tampa Bay, Longoria led AL rookies with 27 homers and a .531 slugging percentage, despite missing 30 games with a fractured right wrist. Longoria is a leading candidate for the league's Rookie of the Year honor after hitting .272 with 85 RBIs in 122 games for the Rays.
When it was all said and done against Chicago, Longoria went 3-for-3 with three RBIs, adding a walk and a stolen base along the way. Thursday's outburst was simply another addition to what's been a storybook season for Longoria.
"Today was an awesome day," he said.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.