ST. PETERSBURG -- Playing their best baseball since 2013, Tampa Bay pounced on visiting Baltimore early in Sunday afternoon's game before claiming an 8-3 win to finish off a three-game sweep.Tampa Bay won its 11th consecutive game at Tropicana Field, and it has won seven of its last eight to
ST. PETERSBURG -- Playing their best baseball since 2013, Tampa Bay pounced on visiting Baltimore early in Sunday afternoon's game before claiming an 8-3 win to finish off a three-game sweep.
Tampa Bay won its 11th consecutive game at Tropicana Field, and it has won seven of its last eight to improve to 78-64 on the season. Not since finishing the 2013 season at 92-71 have the Rays been as many as 14 games over .500.
If anybody could be credited with putting the game on ice, Brandon Lowe would be the guy.
The rookie second baseman/outfielder hit a three-run homer in the first off Baltimore starter Josh Rogers that staked the Rays to a 5-0 lead.
"Good way to wrap up the series," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "We had an opportunity to [get a three-game sweep] in Toronto and fell a little bit short. Today, the guys came out and put some pressure on their young pitcher, which is good to see. Brandon Lowe with the big home run. Kind of the separator right there."
Tampa Bay selected Lowe from Triple-A Durham on Aug. 4. He went 0-for-19 before getting his first Major League hit. Since then, he has heated up considerably, looking more like he did while blistering Double-A and Triple-A pitching for a .297 average with 31 doubles, 22 home runs and 76 RBIs.
"Not everybody's going to come up here and just pick up right where they were in the Minor Leagues," Cash said. "... Good for Brandon to kind of stay patient. Not getting too frustrated. He was probably spinning a little bit early on. ... He's in a better spot now, and it shows. His swings, his at-bats are different. The ball just jumps off his bat."
Sunday's home run gave Lowe four home runs in his last 10 games after none in his first 15 games to begin his Major League career. He is batting .360 with three doubles, three home runs and seven RBIs in his last eight games.
"I'm not trying to hit the ball a thousand miles an hour," Lowe said. "Take good swings and the good stuff will happen."
Once again, Tampa Bay received its seemingly daily dose of quality pitching. While "opener" Ryne Stanek struggled with his control, Yonny Chirinos took over with one out and two aboard in the first and escaped the jam. Chirinos allowed three runs on seven hits while striking out six in 6 1/3 innings to earn his fourth win of the season.
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
If anybody doubted whether the Rays' offense would show up on Sunday, C.J. Cron quickly announced they would with a loud RBI double in the first. The Rays' first baseman jumped on an 88.8-mph four-seamer from Rogers and slammed the ball off the left-field wall. Cron's double had an exit velocity of 114.4 mph and put the Rays up, 1-0.
SMITH STEALS HOME
In the bottom of the second, the Rays had runners at the corners with Tommy Pham at first and Mallex Smith at third. When the Orioles made an unsuccessful attempt to throw out Pham stealing second, Smith broke for the plate, stealing home to account for the Rays' sixth run. Smith's first career steal of home was the first steal of home by a member of the Rays since Desmond Jennings did it against the Yankees on July 3, 2012.
PHAM AT 13
Pham's second-inning single extended his hitting streak to 13 games, the Major Leagues' longest active hitting streak. He also added an RBI double in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Diego Castillo will start Monday night when the Rays host the Indians in a 7:10 p.m. ET contest at Tropicana Field. He also opened Saturday night against the Orioles, pitching a scoreless first. Right-hander Corey Kluber will start for the Indians.
** Bill Chastain ** is a reporter for MLB.com.