ARLINGTON, Texas — Rays third baseman Evan Longoria was already a big hit Saturday afternoon for bringing in a plastic dog to serve as protection for the team's good-luck charm, Astro, left-hander David Price's French bulldog figurine stolen from atop the dugout during Friday's game.
Price dubbed Longoria's bodyguard dog "The Beast."
Longoria himself has been larger than life at the plate of late, and he continued his power surge with a three-run homer in the seventh inning of Game 2 of the American League Division Series against the Rangers. The homer brought the Rays to within a run before they lost 8-6.
Longoria set a club record with his eighth career postseason home run.
"He's on fire right now," Texas left-hander Derek Holland said.
Longoria had another chance to be a hero, coming to bat in the ninth as the tying run. But Rangers closer Neftali Feliz got him to fly out to center.
Few players entered the playoffs with more mojo than Longoria, who capped his second-half surge with a historic regular-season finale, homering twice, including a walkoff blast in the 12th inning to lift the Rays to an 8-7 wild-card-clinching victory over the Yankees.
So it came as little surprise that it was Longoria who delivered a momentum-swinging hit Saturday. He broke a tie with B.J. Upton for career playoff homers.
Longoria's 20 homers after the All-Star break were one shy of Red Sox centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury and Braves second baseman Dan Uggla for the major-league lead. He hit 13 in his last 41 games.
A three-time All-Star, Longoria had 31 homers and 99 RBIs despite missing more than a month at the beginning of the season with an oblique injury.
"He's their guy, he's their big-time player," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "He's been a big-time player since he arrived at the major-league level. And what he's done down the stretch, I personally am not surprised.
"As I say it, I think if he'd got 30 or 40 more games earlier in the year, Tampa Bay may have been (in the playoffs) without having to fight as hard as they did to get here."
Joe Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.