Thu Oct 02 05:58pm EDT
'Nerve-racking' is not listed under the thesaurus under "postseason," but it probably should be. A baseball playoff contains enough pressure to make even the tested veterans knock their knees together and if you say you can sit through one of your teams games without getting a little queasy, then you're probably lying.
How then, to describe what Tampa Bay rookie Evan Longoria just did in not only his first career playoff game, but also the first playoff game for the Rays franchise?
In Longoria's first at-bat, the shoo-in for AL rookie of the year hit a second-inning HR.
In his second at-bat, during the very next inning, he hit another.
In his third, he squeaked an RBI single through the left side of the infield, extending his team's lead.
By the end of the Rays' 6-4 win over the White Sox, Longoria had gone 3-for-3 with 2 HRs, 3 RBI and a walk, extending his storybook season and making strides towards a day when Eva Longoria has a name like his and not the current other way around.
No, the 22-year-old's cool and calm but downright scary performance didn't come on quite the same stage as Andruw Jones homering twice in Game 1 of the 1996 World Series.
Then again, Longoria hasn't had the chance to get there yet. Give him time.
• Longoria's performance further cemented the decision of Tampa Bay GM Andrew Friedman to give the third baseman a nine-year, $44 million deal only a week into his major league career, the richest in Tampa Bay history. Most likely, it also gave Longoria's agent a bit of indigestion for his decision to opt for early security instead of rolling the dice for a better deal down the road.
• Tampa Bay first baseman Carlos Pena did not play because, according to an in-game interview with manager Joe Maddon, he scratched his eye at home before the game and was experiencing some "blurry vision." No reason was given for the scratch. It is not known if Pena owns any cats or made his wife angry for any reason. Perhaps he'll tell us more on the postseason blog he's writing.
• Outside of a three-run home run in the third inning to DeWayne Wise, Rays starter James Shields pitched well, striking out four and walking only one over 6 1/3. Although he ran into trouble in the seventh and loaded the bases, reliever Grant Balfour was able to bail him out, striking out Juan Uribe and Orlando Cabrera to end the threat. Dan Wheeler closed out the game, but allowed a ninth-inning home run to Paul Konerko.
• Chicago starter Javier Vazquez continued to back up manager Ozzie Guillen's claim that he's not a "big-game pitcher," which raises the question what he was even doing out there in the first place. Vazquez gave up eight hits and six earned runs in 4 1/3 innings of work. It was his fourth straight appearance that he allowed five or more earned runs. While the good news is that there's no law saying Guillen is required to start Vazquez in Game Five if the series extends that far, the bad news is that Chicago doesn't have too many alternatives. However, at this point, it's hard to make a case against giving reliever Clayton Richard a shot, especially since the Rays have been just average against left-handed pitching.