The Washington Post

Red Sox vs. Rays: Is Longoria clutch?

Evan Longoria watches his three-run homer leave the yard against Boston on Monday night, helping the Rays rally to a Game 3 win. (Brian Blanco/Getty Images)

Sorry this is a little late for our Tigers-A’s crowd. However, there’s another American League Game 4 tonight, and why does — all of a sudden — all the pressure seem to be on Boston, which holds a two-games-to-one lead over Tampa Bay?

Some of it might be because of third baseman Evan Longoria, whose two-strike, two-out, three-run homer in Game 3 helped salvage the Rays’ season, erasing a 3-0 deficit and helping lead to a walk-off victory. Longoria is the Rays’ anchor, their best hitter and best player. And he has a reputation among scouts and executives as a player who doesn’t find the moment too big, who keeps his approach the same regardless of the situation. Monday night’s example adds to that.

But Longoria is now in the postseason for fourth time in his career. He introduced himself to the national baseball audience in the 2008 American League Championship Series, when he had only seven hits in his 27 at-bats — but those seven hits included four homers and three doubles, and his OPS was a robust 1.148.

In the Rays’ last three postseason appearances, in which they are yet to win a series, he hasn’t duplicated that performance. In those 13 games, eight of them Tampa losses, Longoria has three homers and eight RBI, but 16 strikeouts in 49 at-bats, a .204 average and a .719 OPS — not horrific, but well below his career mark of .870.

This all likely means that Longoria will kill Boston starter Jake Peavy tonight. The two have faced each other 15 times: Longoria has three hits, including a triple and a homer, and Peavy has struck him out only once.

Either way, that matchup is key — for both sides — tonight. If Peavy controls Longoria, he’ll go a long way to clinching the series for the Sox. If Longoria enhances his reputation — an accurate one or not — of being a “clutch” player, then the series could well be headed back to Boston.

Barry Svrluga is the national baseball writer for The Washington Post.



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