ST. PETERSBURG -- If Evan Longoria's two-run homer in the second inning of the Rays' 7-3 Opening Day win over the Yankees looked familiar, it was for good reason. The blast was like a snapshot of his epic Game 162 home run on the final day of the 2011 season
ST. PETERSBURG -- If Evan Longoria's two-run homer in the second inning of the Rays' 7-3 Opening Day win over the Yankees looked familiar, it was for good reason. The blast was like a snapshot of his epic Game 162 home run on the final day of the 2011 season that thrust the Rays into the playoffs.
Sunday's home run, which gave the Rays a 5-2 lead, not only came against the same team the Rays played in the 2011 regular-season finale, when they overcame a 7-0 deficit -- the ball also found the cutout in Tropicana Field's left-field corner just as it did in Game 162. That cutout allows a low line drive to clear the fence, while just a few feet to the right, it would hit the middle of the wall.
"I was surprised it got out," Longoria said. "I knew I top-spun it a little bit. Figured it would be some good advertising for the new Ducky's Deck down there. Just worked out good. Worked out perfectly. … Thankfully they cut out just enough [of the wall]."
Longoria's home run came at the perfect time, as the Yankees had just scored two runs in the top of the second to cut the lead to 3-2.
"Pretty big [impact]," said Rays manager Kevin Cash. "That's why Evan Longoria's been such a staple for the Tampa Bay Rays for so long. … We get three runs, they come back and score two, then he separates the game. You don't like to say the dagger is in the [second] inning, but that was a pretty big bolt for us and tough for them to overcome."
Longoria's home run was the first by any Major Leaguer for the 2017 season, and the first "barrel" of the season, according to Statcast™, which tracked the exit velocity of the line drive at 103.7 mph with a 22-degree launch angle. Longoria also recorded the first RBI of the season with his first-inning sacrifice fly.
"Just means we're putting guys on," said Longoria when asked about the significance of having the first RBI of the season. "The table was set early there. Just like you'd like it to be for your first at-bat. Not a whole lot of thought other than putting the ball in play back up through the middle. The infield was back, so just really trying to cash a run in there early and get a run on the board.
"We really did a great job, especially with two outs. Some big hits. And [we] made [Yankees starter] Masahiro Tanaka work and made him throw strikes. And when he made mistakes, we were able to capitalize."
Longoria now has four career Opening Day home runs (2010, '12, '15), extending his franchise record. He now has homered twice in his last three at-bats against Tanaka after beginning his career at 2-for-21 and no home runs against the Yankees' ace.
Longoria's home runs against the Yankees have been a constant over the years. He now has 33 against them, tying Jose Bautista for the most among active players.
Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005.