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Longo launches himself to top of Rays' homer list

ST. PETERSBURG -- Third baseman Evan Longoria joked at first about what it meant to hit the 164th home run of his career in the third inning of Saturday night's 16-1 win over the Yankees at Tropicana Field.

It was his second homer of the season, with the first coming back on April 3, against the Blue Jays. It had been 13 games and 49 at-bats since he went yard.

"I guess it was about time," Longoria said, smiling.

But that blast off the Trop's "C"-ring catwalk was more than just his long-awaited second homer of 2014. The two-run shot pushed him past former Tampa Bay first baseman Carlos Pena and established him as the franchise's all-time home run leader.

"It took me quite a while to do it," Longoria said. "But it came in a game that we needed to win. This was a good statement win for us, to be able to come out against [Yankees right-hander Ivan] Nova, who has given us trouble in the past, and put together an offensive performance like we did today. It's one of those games where you hope it kind of propels you going forward. It was fun to be able to do it in today's game."

But for Longoria, 28, there was a greater significance to the homer.

Longoria has signed two long-term contract extensions with the Rays since 2008, when he broke into the Majors. The second was a six-year, $100 million pact that could keep him with Tampa Bay through the 2023 season. When he signed that pact, he thought about what it would mean to become a Ray for life, to be the young club's first real franchise player.

He just began his seventh season in the Majors, and he is the only franchise home run leader in baseball currently active with the same team.

In that sense, finally etching his name atop the Rays' leaderboard meant quite a bit to him.

"I'm going to be here for quite a while. I guess if you're going to set [the record], set it early and try to set the bar high," he said. "It's meaningful, because when I signed my contract, that was kind of the whole goal -- to allow this franchise to have somebody to look at for the long term, and when people think about the organization, think that you've had players that wanted to and have played their whole careers here.

"Regardless of the timeframe, I think that has just been my main goal, to kind of set that example for the organization moving forward."

Longoria's first career homer came off Brian Bruney of the Yankees on April 14, 2008, during an 8-7 loss at Tropicana Field. In a way it's fitting that his first homer and the record-breaker came against the Yankees, considering how well he's hit against them. He has homered 26 times against New York, seven more than any other player in the Majors since 2008.

The three-time All-Star and 2008 American League Rookie of the Year has already accomplished quite a bit in his career, and manager Joe Maddon believes he is capable of much more.

"[When Longoria tied Pena], my first thought was to thank Carlos for all the great work he did for us. Longo's going to keep adding to that," Maddon said. "I would say at least double that. At least."

"That's quite a task," Longoria added, smiling. "I'm just going to try to hit No. 3 tomorrow."

Adam Berry is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry.
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