Lowe finding stroke at right time for Rays

Former All-Star continues power tear with 2 HRs, helping Tampa Bay to 6th straight win

July 10th, 2021

ST. PETERSBURG -- Last Sunday, Rays manager Kevin Cash praised for working hard to put his early season slump behind him, noted that Lowe wasn’t “totally out of it” yet and predicted there was a hot streak on the horizon from the 2019 All-Star.

It seems Lowe has officially hit that hot streak. The Rays are on one, too.

Lowe homered in each of his first two at-bats, Tampa Bay’s pitching staff kept Toronto’s tough lineup at bay again and the Rays won their sixth straight game, 5-2, on Saturday afternoon at Tropicana Field.

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“He knows he's a good player. We certainly know he's a good player, and that he can help us,” Cash said of Lowe after his fourth career multihomer game. “We've seen in the past where he gets hot and balls are hitting off the wall [and] over the wall at a pretty, pretty good rate, and that's what we're seeing right now.”

Lowe has gone deep four times in his last four games, six times in his last eight and eight times (with 16 RBIs) in his last 15. His .208 average still isn’t what he wants to see when he looks up at the scoreboard, but he has clearly found his power stroke: Of his 12 hits over the last 15 games, 11 have been for extra bases -- eight homers and three doubles.

The Rays’ most valuable player last season, Lowe spent much of the first half tinkering with his mechanics at the plate and searching for a mindset that has allowed him to focus on each at-bat, not all the frustrating ones that came before. Lowe said what he has done lately has been a product of those physical and mental adjustments.

“It's very easy to get frustrated, and sometimes it's fair to be frustrated. And I think he's had those moments at certain parts of the season,” Cash said. “But give him a lot of credit for staying at it and keeping his head above water and staying confident to allow himself to do this.”

Batting first against right-hander Ross Stripling, Lowe swung at the first pitch he saw and crushed it a Statcast-projected 410 feet to right field for his second career leadoff homer. He came up again in the third with Kevin Kiermaier on second base, worked a full count, then unloaded on a hanging slider for his 20th home run of the season.

Lowe recently referred to his inconsistent offensive campaign as “probably the worst year of my life." But all of a sudden, he’s approaching the All-Star break with a lot to feel good about.

Start with the 20 home runs -- most on the team, a personal best and a rarity in franchise history. (Only four other players -- Carlos Peña, José Canseco, Logan Morrison and Greg Vaughn -- have hit 20 or more homers for Tampa Bay before the All-Star break.) He has driven in 47 runs, second most on the team, and has been healthy enough to play 81 games -- one off his career-high mark. And Lowe’s .775 OPS ranks fifth on the team behind Austin Meadows, , Ji-Man Choi and Joey Wendle.

“I feel normal,” he said. “I don't think that I'm on a tear or as hot as I can be, but I definitely feel better at the plate.”

“He can carry a team when he's really hot,” added left-hander . “So you get really excited about that when he starts hitting the ball like he has been, especially all the homers. You're just really happy for him, because you understand all the work he's been putting in behind the scenes.”

Zunino also homered off Stripling on Saturday, launching a game-tying 109.9-mph 428-foot moonshot to left in the third inning for his 19th of the season. Meadows gave the Rays some breathing room in the eighth inning by hitting a single to right, stealing second and scoring on Randy Arozarena’s single to right off righty Jordan Romano.

“Really big hits, really big home runs -- and you'll take all of them knowing that you're going against this tough lineup with the Blue Jays,” Cash said.

The Jays made Yarbrough work hard for his outs, though, forcing him to throw 104 pitches in five innings as he survived the first few without an effective changeup. But he got an assist from his All-Star catcher in a 27-pitch first inning, as Zunino picked off Vladimir Guerrero Jr. at first base for the third out. And the left-hander got better as the game went on, limiting the damage to Marcus Semien’s two-run homer in the third inning.

Relievers , and took care of the rest, allowing one hit and two walks over the final four innings. The Rays have allowed only four runs in their last 35 innings dating back to the seventh inning on Monday night, and their bullpen hasn’t allowed a run in 18 innings since then.

“Teams are built differently. Our team is built as much to score runs as it is to prevent runs,” Cash said. “And we're seeing that right now with the really good pitching, the outstanding defense and some big hits.”

It has all led the Rays to the Majors’ longest active winning streak, their longest run since winning 11 straight from May 13-24 and a 10-5 record since June 23. Almost makes you wish they didn’t have to stop for the All-Star break, right?

Well, maybe not.

“No. Four days off [is] four days off,” Lowe said, smiling. “It'll do the body some good.”