10/02/08 6:57 PM ET
Rays Short Hops: Game 1
Postseason newbies look like old pros in first playoff win
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
In < 25 words ...
The Rays showed no signs of nerves in taking down a more experienced White Sox club in Tampa Bay's first taste of the playoffs.
At 2:38 p.m. ET, Rays starter James Shields fired a 90-mph fastball for a called strike against White Sox leadoff man Orlando Cabrera. With that pitch, the cowbell-ringing crowd inside Tropicana Field erupted, and Tampa Bay opened its first postseason game in franchise history after enduring 10 losing seasons.
2 -- Rays third baseman Evan Longoria became the first rookie in Major League history to belt a home run in each of his first two career postseason at-bats.
Longoria -- a favorite to take home the AL Rookie of the Year Award this year -- continued to live up to the hype that's followed him all season long. The 22-year-old third baseman joined Minnesota's Gary Gaetti (1987) as the only players in baseball history to clear the fence in each of their first two career playoff at-bats.
Shields overcame a rocky third inning, in which he yielded a three-run homer to Chicago's Dewayne Wise, to turn in a respectable outing for Tampa Bay. The right-hander exited after loading the bases with one out in the seventh inning, but the Rays' bullpen held the White Sox in check to preserve the win for Shields.
Iwamura jump-started a three-run outburst in the third inning by drilling a pitch from Chicago starter Javier Vazquez deep to center field for a triple. The three-base hit plated Jason Bartlett, and Akinori later crossed the plate on a sacrifice fly from Willy Aybar. Iwamura added a fifth-inning single and drew a two-out walk in the eighth.
Sense of October
With the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh, Rays reliever Grant Balfour threw a pitch outside for a ball to Cabrera. The Chicago shortstop kicked the dirt in the batter's box and yelled toward the mound, angering Balfour. The reliever proceeded to strikeout Cabrera, smacking his glove and barking back as he walked off the field after escaping the intimidating jam.
3 AB, 3 H, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R, BB, SB
Comment: Longoria added to his impressive season by powering the Rays' offense in a convincing Game 1 win over the White Sox.
2/3 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 0 BB, 2 K
Comment: Balfour entered with the bases loaded in the seventh and fanned Chicago's Juan Uribe and Cabrera to end the inning.
"We've been the type of team all year long that we've been relaxed. We've got some veteran guys that kind of keep us cool. We don't have that much experience in the playoffs, but sometimes that's a good thing." -- James Shields
The Rays turn to left-hander Scott Kazmir in a pivotal Game 2 matchup against White Sox southpaw Mark Buehrle. Tampa Bay is hoping Kazmir can overcome his season-long struggles with consistency and perform like the ace he's capable of being.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.