ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria, the odds-on favorite to be named American League Rookie of the Year, put his name in the record books Thursday afternoon when he hit home runs in each of his first two at-bats in Game 1 of the division series against the Chicago White Sox.
Longoria, who hit 27 homers during the regular season, became the second player ever to homer in his first two postseason at-bats. Third baseman Gary Gaetti of the Minnesota Twins homered in his first two at-bats in the 1987 AL Championship Series against the Detroit Tigers.
Gene Tenace of Oakland homered in each of his first two at-bats in the 1972 World Series, but before that played in the ALCS against Detroit. Andruw Jones was a 19-year-old Atlanta rookie when he hit home runs in his first two at-bats against the New York Yankees in the 1996 World Series, but he had played in the National League playoffs.
Longoria hit the first pitch from White Sox right-hander Javier Vazquez for a home run to lead off the second inning, giving Tampa Bay a 1-0 lead.
After White Sox left fielder Dewayne Wise hit a three-run home run in the third, Longoria hit a hanging curveball that struck the “C” catwalk in the domed Tropicana Field, an automatic home run. The point of contact was about 125 feet above the field. The ball landed in the left-field seats.
The Rays lost slugger Carlos Pena after just two innings. A Rays official said Pena was suffering from slightly blurred vision in his left eye after accidentally scratching it at home on Wednesday night. He is expected to be available for Game 2 Friday.