ARLINGTON, Texas – Evan Longoria is still limping. Now he’s also hitting, and the Tampa Bay Rays are headed home, one victory from an improbable comeback.
Longoria snapped out of his postseason slump with a homer and two doubles, Carlos Pena scored twice with a pair of extra-base hits of his own and Tampa Bay escaped elimination again with a 5-2 victory Sunday over the Texas Rangers to force a deciding Game 5 in the A.L. division series.
“We’ve really battled to get back to even,” Longoria said. “And I think we have a lot of confidence going home, and being able to finish the series in our home ballpark.”
To do that they’ll have to beat Cliff Lee, who matched a postseason best with 10 strikeouts in a 5-1 series-opening victory. The Rays lost the two games at Tropicana Field before winning twice in Texas to push a division series to a fifth game for the first time since the Los Angeles Angels beat the New York Yankees in 2005.
“I still want to believe there is a home-field advantage and hopefully that’s going to show up,” manager Joe Maddon said. “The extra game at home, I have been talking about it all along.”
If the Rays win they will join the 2001 Yankees as the only teams to lose the first two games at home and still win a five-game series.
The series winner hosts Game 1 of the A.L. championship series Friday night against the Yankees. New York swept Minnesota in three games, winning the series Saturday night.
Texas is still the only current major league franchise that has never won a postseason series.
Also, the Rangers have never won a playoff game at home (0-6).
“It’s down to one game, we’ve got Cliff going and certainly feel good about that,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said.
Tampa Bay sends 19-game winner David Price to the mound Tuesday night in a rematch of the Game 1 starters.
“I like our chances with Dave on the mound again,” Longoria said.
Longoria, still limited by a left quad strain that forced him to miss the last 10 games of the regular season, was in an 0-for-12 slide before he and Pena had consecutive doubles starting the fourth against Tommy Hunter. Longoria added a two-run homer in the fifth for a 5-0 lead.
Pena put Tampa Bay ahead to stay after he tripled off the base of the wall in left-center in the second. He scored when Matt Joyce hit a high popup in shallow right that dropped near backpedaling second baseman Ian Kinsler for an error.