Evan Longoria's top 10 moments

March 28th, 2022

ST. PETERSBURG -- As the Rays’ best young player during the club’s rise from perennial cellar-dweller to American League East powerhouse, Evan Longoria quickly became one of the faces of baseball at the beginning of his career. He cemented that status by delivering one of the most memorable moments in the sport’s recent history.

Longoria, a three-time All-Star, spent 10 years with the Rays before being traded to the Giants ahead of the 2018 season, taking his excellent career from Tampa Bay to the Bay Area and continuing to hold down the hot corner for San Francisco.

Longoria earned a reputation as a player who delivered in the biggest moments. Here are 10 that have defined his career:

1. Game 162
Where else would this list possibly start? On Sept. 28, the final day of the 2011 regular season -- widely considered one of the most exciting days in recent MLB history -- Longoria put the finishing touches on the Rays’ wild comeback to surpass the Red Sox and capture the AL Wild Card.

With the Rays trailing, 7-3, and two outs in the eighth inning, Longoria bashed a three-run homer off the Yankees’ Luis Ayala to make it a one-run game. As that drama was unfolding at Tropicana Field, the Red Sox collapsed in Baltimore and lost, 4-3, opening the door for Tampa Bay to clinch a postseason berth with a victory. Dan Johnson homered off Cory Wade with two outs in the ninth, then Longoria came through with a heroic moment in the 12th.

Longoria hooked a 2-2 pitch from Scott Proctor over the lower cutout portion of Tropicana Field’s left-field fence, then he raised both arms skyward as he rounded first base, an iconic moment for the Rays and MLB. Tampa Bay's delirious celebration was on, and Longoria secured his place in history by joining Bobby Thomson as the only players to hit a walk-off homer in the final game of the regular season to put their teams in the postseason.

2. Rookie of the Year
The third overall pick in the 2006 MLB Draft, Longoria made short work of the Minors and debuted on April 12, 2008. He signed a contract extension less than a week later, ensuring he would remain with Tampa Bay for the foreseeable future, and immediately lived up to the hype. Longoria sparked the Rays’ worst-to-first turnaround in '08, as the small-market club topped the beasts of the AL East and claimed the franchise’s first AL pennant.

Overall, Longoria hit .272/.343/.531 with 27 homers, 85 RBIs and 4.8 WAR in 122 games. He was named an All-Star, finished 11th in the AL MVP voting and easily won the AL Rookie of the Year Award.

3. A postseason debut to remember
Perhaps it was fitting that Longoria gloved the final out when the Rays, who had never won more than 70 games before his rookie year, clinched their first trip to the playoffs with a 7-2 win over the Twins at Tropicana Field on Sept. 20, 2008.

“I think every baseball player and every kid dreams of this day,” Longoria said afterward. “It’s a reality now.”

Longoria delivered in his postseason debut, too. He homered on each of his first two swings in Game 1 of the 2008 AL Division Series against the Red Sox, leading the Rays to a 6-4 win in the opener. Overall, Longoria hit six homers -- then a postseason record for any rookie -- in the first two rounds of the playoffs before going quiet in Tampa Bay’s World Series loss to Philadelphia.

4. Game 163
Longoria is, of course, remembered for Game 162, but don’t forget what he did in Game 163 two years later. The Rays won in Toronto on the last scheduled day of the regular season to force a tiebreaker game in Texas. They had to win there just to reach the 2013 AL Wild Card Game in Cleveland, where they would eventually emerge victorious to earn a spot in the ALDS against Boston. So, yes, there was a lot on the line.

Rays ace David Price proved to be the hero of the game, holding a dangerous Rangers lineup to two runs in a complete-game effort. But it was Longoria who came through with the biggest hit, one of his three in the game: a two-run homer off Martin Perez in the third inning, giving Tampa Bay a 3-0 lead in an eventual 5-2 win. That also capped one of Longoria’s finest years, as he hit .269/.343/.498 with 32 homers, 88 RBIs and a team-leading 5.8 WAR in 160 games.

5. The cycle
B.J. Upton put his power and speed on display when he hit for the Rays’ first cycle on Oct. 2, 2009, and Longoria joined him by completing the feat in Tampa Bay’s 6-4 win over the Astros in Houston on Aug. 1, 2017.

Longoria needed a double when he stepped to the plate with two outs in the ninth inning. He knocked a ball down the left-field line and dove headfirst into second base, where he was initially called out. But a replay review overturned the call, making Longoria’s cycle the first to feature a review or challenge on any of the hits. Longoria admitted he was thinking about the cycle when he rounded first in the ninth.

"I felt good at the plate from the beginning tonight. But it's tough when you're thinking about it,” he said then. “I probably would have been a little bit more confident or comfortable if I only needed a single. But it was kind of surreal."

6. The Gold Glove defense
Longoria earned Gold Glove Awards with the Rays in 2009, ’10 and ’17. The third baseman even had a signature play: charging a bunt or weak grounder, scooping it up barehanded, then making a strong throw to first. One such play was, fittingly, a walk-off during his rookie season. He fielded a ninth-inning bunt with his right hand and made a one-hop throw to first, keeping the tying run from scoring in a 3-2 win over the Cubs on June 17, 2008.

Another example of Longoria’s athleticism and instincts took place on July 6, 2013, behind starter Matt Moore. Longoria snagged an Alex Rios liner with two on and nobody out in the third inning, then dove to the bag and beat Alejandro De Aza to complete a double play in a 3-0 Rays win.

7. The franchise leader
Years after being traded, Longoria is still the Rays’ all-time leader in most meaningful offensive categories -- and he likely won’t lose those top spots anytime soon. That includes the franchise’s home run record of 261, nearly 100 more than the next hitter. He passed Carlos Pena (163) for Tampa Bay’s all-time lead on April 19, 2014, with a homer off the Yankees’ Ivan Nova.

8. Mr. 300
Most of Longoria’s signature moments came with the Rays, but he’s been responsible for more than a few highlights since donning the Giants’ orange and black. Facing left-hander Robbie Ray on Aug. 21 during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, Longoria became the 150th Major League player to join the 300-homer club in a 6-2 win over the D-backs.

“I’ve never really thought about personal numbers, but it is special,” Longoria said afterward. “My wife continued to remind me before the year started that I was only three short. She really likes even numbers, so I had to make sure I got there. It feels good to have it out of the way, and in a win.”

9. The triple play
This one came during the far less-heralded “Game 161” on Sept. 27, 2011. Down by a run in the sixth inning against the Yankees at Tropicana Field, Russell Martin hit a grounder off Jeremy Hellickson. Longoria was perfectly shifted to field it and step on third base, then he threw the ball to Ben Zobrist for the second out at second base. Martin dove into first base, but Zobrist’s throw beat him there. Matt Joyce hit a three-run homer in the seventh, and the Rays won, 5-3, to set up the next day’s drama.

It was the third triple play in Rays history and their first since Sept. 2, 2006, against the Mariners. It was also the first triple play New York had hit into in more than a decade, as the Yankees’ last one came on May 29, 2000.

10. The second fortune
When asked why he signed a lucrative but extremely team-friendly contract extension as a rookie, Longoria often cited the advice he received to “never turn down your first fortune.” He earned his second, significantly larger fortune a little more than four years later, and it was a major moment for him and the Rays.

On Nov. 26, 2012, Longoria signed a six-year, $100 million extension with Tampa Bay that included a club option for 2023. It was an incredibly rare financial commitment for Tampa Bay, and Longoria viewed it as a personal commitment. When the deal was announced, Longoria said he wanted to be “a benchmark player … the guy that you could think about or associate with the organization. My goal from Day 1 was to be the first player that played their whole career here.”

It didn’t pan out that way, as the Rays traded Longoria only one year into his big extension, but by that point, he had already secured his place as the greatest player in franchise history.