Longoria makes Final Vote count
Rays rookie's pinch-hit RBI double sends game to extras
NEW YORK -- Not only was Evan Longoria a Monster 2008 All-Star Final Vote entry, he was the American League's final position player. He didn't provide the final run, but he provided the one that turned this All-Star Game into a Midsummer Classic endurance test.
For Longoria's first All-Star Game, a game he made as the last spot on the squad, it was everything he could've dreamed.
"Yeah, and more," Longoria said. "Two hours more."
After fans on MLB.com voted the Rays rookie into Tuesday's game, Longoria turned out to be a timely addition to the AL roster. His eighth-inning double brought in the run that tied the game at 3. He went hitless in three more plate appearances, but once the AL finally completed its comeback with a 15th-inning victory, Longoria could take a good amount of credit.
Longoria and Brewers outfielder Corey Hart won the Final Vote balloting among five candidates in each league. Although Hart entered the game for the National League in the sixth inning as a defensive replacement and ended up going 0-for-3, Longoria had to wait a while.
That was OK with him. As he explained before the game, simply getting here was an honor, especially for someone who began the season in the Minor Leagues.
"It just speaks a lot about what our team has done and what the fans think," Longoria said.
On and on the game unfolded, as manager Terry Francona made his replacements. By the bottom of the eighth inning, Longoria and Tigers third baseman Carlos Guillen were the final players on the AL bench. Guillen was expected to be in that role because of his versatility.
While Guillen pinch-hit for third baseman Joe Crede with one out and a 3-2 NL lead, Longoria was in the hole to bat in the designated-hitter slot for Milton Bradley, the one remaining player from the AL's starting lineup. But to get a chance to bat in the eighth, Longoria needed Grady Sizemore to reach base.
Sizemore obliged with a two-out single, giving Longoria his shot. All he had to do was hit Mets closer Billy Wagner. After Sizemore stole second, Longoria worked out of a 1-2 count by shrugging off a fastball.
"He threw me a fastball on my hands and I fouled off the first one," Longoria said, "and then another slider that I fouled off to get to two strikes. I was obviously sitting on the fastball, because he throws so hard. I didn't want to get beat by that."
He didn't. Instead, Wagner tried to bury him with a slider boring in on him.
"I was able to stay through it pretty good," Longoria said.
Not only did Longoria make contact, he pulled it -- almost too much, but just inside the foul line and into the left-field seats on one hop. Sizemore rounded third, on his way to pulling the game even once again.
Longoria might be a crucial piece to a Rays team that leads the Yankees for second in the AL East race. The roar from the crowd in the Bronx, however, made that forgettable for a night.
By contrast, it was an unforgettable addition to the top of the list of big hits Longoria has churned out in less than half a season in the big leagues. It's a long list; out of Longoria's 53 RBIs for Tampa Bay this season, 37 have come in one-run or tied games.
"It felt good," Longoria said. "I thought it was going to mean that I was going to have a good rest of the day."
Maybe not. Longoria could not break the deadlock when he came back up in the 10th inning with one out and the bases loaded. Rockies pitcher Aaron Cook jammed him with back-to-back inside fastballs, the latter resulting in a squibber to third that gave Nationals infielder Cristian Guzman a quick out at the plate to retire Carlos Quentin. Longoria struck out in the 12th and 14th innings, the former with Guillen on third base and one out.
In that respect, it was a frustrating night for him. Being a designated hitter, moreover, was an adjustment.
"It was wearing on me a little bit in the dugout," Longoria admitted, "especially when I don't get to go out and play defense, when I have to sit in the dugout and be a DH and worry about my last at-bat for the next half-hour. It was tough, but I'm happy we won the game."
More than a few American Leaguers, in turn, are happy that Longoria won the Final Vote.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.