Longoria ties mark with three taters
Rookie's big night vs. Twins matches Gomes' Rays record
ST. PETERSBURG -- It didn't matter who the Twins sent to the hill on Thursday night, Rays rookie Evan Longoria had their number.
The third baseman blasted three home runs off three different Minnesota pitchers in Tampa Bay's 11-8 series-opening loss at Tropicana Field.
"They made some mistakes," Longoria said. "And as a good hitter in this league, if they make mistakes, you got to make them pay."
And pay the Twins did.
Longoria plated four runs and was one of the lone bright spots in the Rays' loss.
"I'm not sure if I've ever seen [three home runs hit by a player of the losing team]," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
Despite feeling the stinging effects of the loss, Longoria admitted he was "obviously happy" with his performance at the plate.
With two outs in the first inning, he went yard off Twins southpaw Glen Perkins -- scoring leadoff man Akinori Iwamura -- to plate the club's first pair of runs. Three innings later, Longoria followed Carlos Pena's two-out solo shot with his second homer of the night. In that at-bat, the 22-year-old sent a 2-0 pitch from Minnesota right-handed reliever Philip Humber over the left-field wall. The third time was the charm for Longoria, who notched his 25th home run of the year with a seventh-inning leadoff blast off right-hander Bobby Korecky.
The MLB record for home runs in a single game is four, with 15 different players reaching the feat. The most recent player was Carlos Delgado, in 2003 while playing with the Blue Jays. Twelve of the players accomplished the feat in a nine-inning game, while three took advantage of extra innings.
Thursday's three blasts moves Longoria in front of the Cubs' Geovany Soto for top billing in rookie home runs, and makes him just the second Rays player all-time to hit three home runs in a single game. He joins teammate Jonny Gomes -- also a rookie at the time -- who went deep three times on July 23, 2005, against Kansas City.
The feat is even more impressive considering Longoria missed 30 games with a fractured right wrist, returning to the lineup on Saturday.
"It's nice to see him come back," Maddon said. "I just like the quality of the at-bats."
Longoria said he is still "ironing things out," and estimated he was about 10 at-bats away from returning to his pre-injury form. A full-throttle Longoria is a scary thought for Rays opponents, especially given what the Twins witnessed Thursday night.
"We recognize that he can hit home runs now," Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He's a great player ... looked really easy and [had a] nice swing, fluid and through the ball. We'll try to figure out what we can do a little different."
Brittany Ghiroli is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.