ST. PETERSBURG – For a bunch of postseason newbies, the Tampa Bay Rays sure did act like they knew what they were doing today when they played their first-ever playoff game in franchise history.
The franchise that spent nine of its first 10 years of existence in last place, is perfect in the postseason after the 6-4 win against the visiting Chicago White Sox in Game 1 of the American League Division Series.
Game 2 is 6 p.m. Friday.
Evan Longoria provided most of the power when he became the first rookie to homer in his first two post-season at-bats.
James Shields earned the victory, holding the White Sox to three hits and five runs in 6 2/3 innings. All three runs scored on a third-inning home run by Dewayne Wise.
Shields, who tied the Rays record this summer for wins during a season with 14, left with one-out in the seventh inning and the bases loaded.
Grant Balfour came on and struck out Juan Uribe with a 95-mph fastball.
Balfour’s next pitch was low and away from Orlando Cabrera, but the White Sox shortstop began yelling at Balfour, which brought Balfour off the mound as he yelled back.
The players continued to argue after Balfour got Cabrera swinging at a 94-mph fastball to end the inning.
Chicago catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who was on first, had a few words to say as he passed Balfour, and several Rays players and coaches emerged from the dugout, including bench coach Davy Martinez, who had to be restrained from getting closer to the White Sox bench.
A sold-out crowd of 35,041 filled the Trop, many arriving early to see the American League East-champion Rays take batting practice. The Rays received a standing ovation as they jogged off the field after batting practice.
Longoria gave the Rays a 1-0 lead when he homered off Javier Vazquez on the first pitch of the second inning.
The rookie third baseman then joined Gary Gaetti as the only players in major league history to homer in his first two at-bats when he drilled a pitch off the D-ring catwalk in left field to give the Rays a 4-3 lead. Gaetti, who serves as the Rays Triple A batting coach, did it in 1987 with the Minnesota Twins.
Longoria homered on just two swings.
The Rays had tied the score that inning on an RBI triple by Akinori Iwamura and a sacrifice fly by Willy Aybar.
Longoria followed Aybar with a blast that was headed toward the second deck in left field had the catwalk not go in the way.
Aybar, who replaced an injured Carlos Peña in the third inning, singled and scored in the Rays two-run sixth.
Longoria singled home one run and Carl Crawford, starting his first game for the Rays since he injured a tendon in his right middle finger Aug. 9, singled home another.
Peña left the game because of blurred vision in his left eye. He apparently scratched his eye Wednesday night. Peña is expected back in the lineup Friday.
Paul Konerko made it a 6-4 game when he led off the ninth inning with a towering home run down the left field line off Dan Wheeler, who became the Rays closer for the ALDS when Troy Percival was not added to the roster.
The Rays passed on Percival and his playoff experience in favor of rookie David Price. Rays manager Joe Maddon said Percival is not healthy enough to pitch during this round of the playoffs, but might be available if the Rays advance to the American League Championship Series.
Scott Kazmir will attempt to give the Rays a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series when he makes his postseason debut Friday night.
Left-hander Mark Buehrle, (15-12, 3.79 ERA) is scheduled to start for the White Sox.