On the first pitch of his first career playoff game, former Long Beach State standout Evan Longoria didn’t show any jitters — if he had any at all.
The 22-year-old led off the second inning and blasted starter Javier Vasquez’s offering to left-center at Tropicana Field to give the Tampa Bay Rays a 1-0 lead. Longoria not only recorded his first playoff hit, but he also accounted for the first hit, run, home run, RBI and lead in the franchise’s postseason history.
What a way to make a debut.
“I was just looking for a pitch out over the plate to hit,” Longoria said after the game on TBS.
The Rays went on to defeat the Chicago White Sox, 6-4, to pick up the franchise’s first-ever playoff win and grab a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five American League division series Thursday.
Longoria was the difference.
The rookie finished 3-for-3 with two solo homers, three RBIs, two runs scored, a stolen base and a walk. That’s right, two homers.
He didn’t have to wait long, either.
In the third, Longoria hammered a hanging 0-1, off-speed pitch to left to re-take the lead, 4-3. The ex-Dirtbag was actually out in front of the pitch, but adjusted to prevent from hooking the pitch and keep it fair for the first multi-homer playoff game of his career.
My thought process suddenly changed from, “How is he going to perform in his first playoff game?” to “How many home runs is he going to hit?”
In the fifth, he didn’t add to his home run total but did tack on another RBI. With two runners on and one out, Longoria laced a single through the hole at shortstop to score B.J. Upton and extend the lead to 5-3.
White Sox reliever Clayton Richard must have been paying close attention. In Longoria’s fourth plate appearance, Richard treated Longoria like a playoff-tested veteran, walking him on four straight pitches — including bouncing the last pitch to the plate.
Longoria carried himself like a playoff veteran, though. He didn’t get anxious and try to hit another longball. Instead, he took what Richard gave him and then proceeded to steal second base.
I guess the next stage in the thought process is: “What’s Longoria going to do for an encore tomorrow?”