10/17/08 5:24 AM ET
Homer trio puts Rays in elite company
Upton, Longoria each hit sixth shot; Pena adds to running tally
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
Two batters into the game, B.J. Upton's two-run home run put the Rays in front. Two innings later, back-to-back homers from Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria gave the visitors a 5-0 lead. Unfortunately, Boston would rally for an 8-7 win to keep its hopes alive.
The continued firepower from the Rays set a new record for home runs in an ALCS with 13, taking the standard from the Red Sox, who hit 12 homers over seven games in its 2003 ALCS loss to the Yankees.
Not only did the Rays top that record in Game 5 of this ALCS, they did it without any homers in the series opener. The only team with more homers in an LCS is Houston, which belted 14 in its 2004 NLCS loss to St. Louis.
Add in the Rays' home runs from their AL Division Series victory over the White Sox, and Tampa Bay's 19 homers shattered the previous mark for a franchise in its first postseason.
"[Longoria] has gotten hot, B.J., there's no explanation except when you -- as a group -- start doing that, and we have guys that can, it's not like guys are doing things they are not capable of doing," Rays manager Joe Maddon said before Game 5. "They just happen to be getting hot at the same time.
"That's the one part of this team that we've talked about the consistency of the pitching and defense and then we talked about timely hitting all the time. During all this time, I've often felt we would bring it together offensively at some point."
Upton's latest shot came against Sox starting pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka, whose seven-plus scoreless innings in Game 1 led the Red Sox to a 2-0 shutout at Tropicana Field.
Matsuzaka, who took a no-hitter into the seventh inning in Game 1, found himself in immediate trouble in this contest when Akinori Iwamura slapped a leadoff single through the right side. That put a runner on base for Upton, who pounced on a 1-1 fastball and sent it towards the Green Monster.
The ball just barely cleared the wall, hitting off a fans' hands in the front row of seats and landing on the top of the monster. It was Upton's sixth homer of the playoffs, moving him further up the leaderboard for the most by a player in a single postseason. Barry Bonds and Carlos Beltran share the record with eight, set respectively in 2002 with the Giants and '04 with the Astros, one ahead of Troy Glaus with the '02 Angels. Upton joined eight players with a half-dozen, and later Longoria also connected on his sixth.
Most homers in first playoff appearance
Matsuzaka settled down to retire seven of the next eight Rays he faced until Upton came back up and lined a single with one out in the third inning. He took off on a hit-and-run play on Matsuzaka's first pitch to Pena, who turned on it and pulled it down the right-field line and just inside the foul pole.
That extended Pena's home-run streak to three straight games in this series. Not to be outdone, Longoria followed with a deep drive over the Green Monster. That marked his fourth straight game with a home run, breaking Bernie Williams' ALCS record from 2001 and tying Beltran's LCS mark from '04.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.