Playoff Series: Game 1 of 4

Tampa Bay won 3-1

Game 1: Thursday, October 2
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Game 2: Friday, October 3
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Game 3: Sunday, October 5
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Game 4: Monday, October 6
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    2:30 PM ET, October 2, 2008

    Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Florida 

    123456789 R H E
    CWS 003000001 4 7 0
    TB 01302000 - 6 11 0

    W: J. Shields (1-0)

    L: J. Vazquez (0-1)

    S: D. Wheeler (1)

    Longoria's two homers help Rays power past ChiSox 

    Associated Press

    ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Cool and calm, or so it seemed.

    Evan Longoria and the Tampa Bay Rays appeared perfectly at home in the playoffs with a Game 1 victory over Chicago. The rookie said looks can be deceiving, though.

    Ray Of Power

    Evan Longoria became the ninth player in history to hit two home runs in his first postseason game. He is the fourth to do so at home and first since B.J. Surhoff. Here's a list:

    Year Player Series Opp.
    2008 Evan Longoria ALDS vs. CWS
    2003 Todd Walker ALDS at OAK
    2002 Troy Glaus ALDS at NYY
    1999 Edgardo Alfonzo NLDS at ARI
    1996 B.J. Surhoff ALDS vs. CLE
    1996 Chipper Jones NLDS at COL
    1995 Ken Griffey Jr. ALDS at NYY
    1987 Gary Gaetti ALCS vs. DET
    1959 Ted Kluszewski WS vs. LAD
    "I was nervous," he said. "I think if you're not nervous in this situation, you're really not soaking in the moment."

    The All-Star third baseman homered in his first two at-bats and the surprising AL East champions were a big hit in their postseason debut, beating the White Sox 6-4 Thursday in their AL playoff opener.

    "He's always got this way about him. He's not going to be overwhlemed by the situation. And that speaks beyond his skill level," manager Joe Maddon said. "Obviously, his skills are very good ... and he likes these moments in a non-cocky way. He's just very confident."

    After 10 seasons as baseball's doormat, the Rays took the division with the best home record (57-24) in the majors. A lack of postseason experience was not a factor as they kept winning at Tropicana Field behind James Shields' effective start and Grant Balfour's testy, bases-loaded escape.

    "It feels like you're in a dream," said Carl Crawford, who at 27 is the longest-tenured player in team history. "I'm just glad we got this first win out of the way. It was real special."

    Tampa Bay ranked near the bottom of the attendance charts this year, but The Trop rocked on this day with a sellout crowd of 35,041. Rays season-ticket holder Dick Vitale joined in the fun, waving a "We Love Longoria" placard from his first-row seat next to the visitor's dugout.

    Game 2 is Friday, when Tampa Bay's Scott Kazmir (12-8) faces Mark Buehrle (15-12).

    "We want to win both of them now. We have such an advantage at home," Longoria said.

    Chicago beat Minnesota in the AL Central tiebreaker Tuesday, and took a 3-1 lead on Dewayne Wise's three-run homer in the third inning. But Javier Vazquez, who has a history of flopping in big games, could not hold it.

    Fast Facts

    • The Rays won their first postseason game, ending the White Sox eight-game postseason win streak.

    • Rays third baseman Evan Longoria became the second player, and first rookie, to hit a home run in each of his first two postseason at-bats. The other? Gary Gaetti fo the 1987 Twins.

    • The White Sox lost again on artificial turf. They were 4-16 on turf in regular season.

    • Rays relievers struck out 5 in 2 2/3 innings, allowing one hit.

    -- ESPN research

    Longoria became the second player to homer in his first two postseason at-bats, joining one of his former minor league hitting coaches, Gary Gaetti, who did it with the Minnesota Twins in 1987.

    Longoria started the year in the minors and still hit 27 homers in the big leagues despite missing 30 games with a broken right wrist.

    "This guy is a star. He's going to be an outstanding ballplayer," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. "You see his face on the field, and you just know he's going to be a great, great player."

    Longoria homered on his first postseason pitch, a 421-foot leadoff drive in the second. He put Tampa Bay ahead 4-3 with another solo shot in the third, a 430-foot homer off one of the infamous catwalks that support the roof at Tropicana.

    "I was just looking for a pitch out over the plate I could hit," Longoria said.

    He also had an RBI single and finished 3-for-3 with three RBIs.

    The Rays led 6-3 in the seventh when the game got tense.

    Balfour relieved Shields with the bases loaded and one out, and struck out Juan Uribe. Orlando Cabrera was up next and after ball one, he kicked dirt toward the mound and appeared to shout something at Balfour. The reliever walked toward the plate before being stopped by umpire Joe West.

    Balfour fanned Cabrera to end the threat, pumped his fist and pointed at the White Sox shortstop. The exchange also brought Maddon and bench coach Dave Martinez out of the dugout and more words were exchanged.

    Cabrera said he was responding to something Balfour said.

    ALDS: White Sox vs. Rays

    Complete coverage of the White Sox-Rays matchup.
    Series page
    Scouting: White Sox Insider | Rays Insider
    "They say that he always gets pumped up like that," Cabrera said. "I didn't know that so I just got mad a little bit and I was just pumped up. ... It was just heat of the moment."

    Said Balfour: "I fire myself up. That's what I do."

    "I haven't changed anything. I'm not going to change," he said.

    It was the same kind of feisty attitude the Rays displayed in spring training during a dustup with the New York Yankees and a bench-clearing brawl in June on their first visit to Boston to play the Red Sox.

    Shields allowed three runs and six hits in 6 1/3 innings. Balfour struck out both batters he faced and J.P. Howell worked a perfect eighth.

    Dan Wheeler gave up a solo home run to Paul Konerko in finishing for a save. Wheeler is filling in for closer Troy Percival, who has been slowed by injuries and was left off the playoff roster.

    Tampa Bay slugger Carlos Pena left after the second inning with slightly blurred vision in his left eye. The Rays said he accidentally scratched his eye at home, and was expected to return to the lineup for Game 2.

    Longoria's RBI single in the fifth made it 5-3 and chased Vazquez.

    Crawford, back in the lineup for the first time since injuring his finger on Aug. 9, hit an RBI single off Clayton Richard.

    Vazquez allowed six runs and eight hits in 4 1/3 innings -- the fourth consecutive start, all losses, he's gone less than five innings.

    "We have to win tomorrow," Guillen said. "I mean, it's not a do or die thing, but I'd rather go home with one win than go home with our backs to the wall. This organization has been against the wall a lot of times, but we've pulled it out before."

    Game notes

    Vazquez is the first pitcher to start Game 1 of a playoff series with at least 16 regular-season losses since Steve Carlton in 1983. ... Richard struck out five consecutive batters after giving up the RBI single to Crawford in the fifth.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press