Longoria’s bat sends series to the wire

Longoria's bat sends series to the wire

Max Faulkner, Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT

Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon (70) congratulates relief pitcher Rafael Soriano (29) after the team beat the Texas Rangers in Game 4 of the American League Division Series on Sunday, October 10, 2010 in Arlington, Texas. The Rays won, 5-2.

Mark Gonzales, Chicago Tribune (MCT)

ARLINGTON, Texas — Evan Longoria admitted his left quadriceps still bothers him.

“I felt like Kirk Gibson a little bit,” quipped Longoria, referring to the hobbled Gibson’s dramatic pinch-hit home run in 1988 that sparked the Dodgers to a World Series victory.

But after Longoria hit two doubles and a two-run home run Sunday, the Rays are on the verge of a heroic comeback. Their 5-2 victory over the Rangers forced a fifth and deciding game Tuesday in the American League Division Series.

The Rays need one more victory to become the first team to lose the first two games at home but win a best-of-five ALDS series since the Yankees did it against Oakland in 2001.

To achieve this distinction, the Rays will have to solve Rangers ace Cliff Lee, who pitched seven innings of one-run ball in a Game 1 victory Wednesday over David Price.

“We know what’s at stake,” Texas third baseman Michael Young said after the Rangers blew two chances at home to win the ALDS and advance to the AL Championship Series against the Yankees.

Longoria, who missed the final 10 games of the regular season because of his injury, was hitless in 11 at-bats before leading off the fourth with a double that started a two-run rally. Longoria didn’t have to strain his leg in the fifth after hitting a two-run home run, his seventh career postseason homer.

The Rays’ ALDS comeback is similar to the resiliency they displayed in a four-game series at New York on Sept. 20-23, when they lost the first two games to fall 21/2 games out of first but won the final two games and eventually won the AL East and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

“That was pretty fresh in a lot of guys’ minds, and that’s what I kept drawing from — our ability to bounce back in that situation and our ability to do that here and the belief that we can,” Longoria said.

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