'Not a whole lot better' feeling for walk-off hero

Lowe's HR gives Rays 2nd straight win in 11, puts them in 2nd WC spot

September 22nd, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG -- As soon as he made contact, Nate Lowe put his hands in the air and looked at the home dugout, giving the rest of his teammates confirmation that they were about to complete their second consecutive walk-off win.

With the Rays trailing by one run in the 11th inning, Lowe came up to the plate representing the winning run after Travis d’Arnaud led off the frame with a double. Just three pitches later, Lowe smacked a two-run home run that cleared the porch in left field to lead the Rays past the Red Sox, 5-4, on Saturday at Tropicana Field.

As Lowe rounded the bases, his teammates were ready to pounce on the first baseman and begin the celebration. Willy Adames and Austin Meadows ripped off Lowe’s jersey as he crossed home plate, and Guillermo Heredia finished it off, pouring the Gatorade cooler on Lowe.

“As cliche as it sounds, there’s not a whole lot better than hitting a walk-off homer in a pennant race,” Lowe said. “I still smell like Gatorade everywhere even though I just showered. I don’t know if my jersey will ever be clean. I’ll take it every minute.”

Lowe became just the third player in franchise history to hit a home run in extra innings with the Rays facing a deficit. It was also just the ninth time in club history that a rookie hit a walk-off homer.

For Lowe, it also helped him bounce back from some recent struggles at the plate. Known for his power, Lowe had connected on just one home run since being called up on Sept. 1, and he was hitting .182 since returning to the big league club.

With one swing of the bat, those struggles were forgotten.

“I was so locked in trying to hit the ball harder, trying to get the ball out of the yard so we can get runs across, but you get pretty narrow-minded,” Lowe said. “Being able to get the ball the other way and then get it out of here for two runs and a win was huge.”

After leading 3-1 through seven innings, the Rays, again, had to withstand a couple of punches from the Red Sox. Nick Anderson gave up a two-run home run to Rafael Devers in the eighth inning that tied the score. Then in the 11th, Diego Castillo allowed a solo home run to Mitch Moreland that gave the Red Sox a 4-3 lead and appeared to be the big blow of the night.

But despite the ups and downs, the mood inside the Rays' dugout didn’t change. d’Arnaud said that as the team got into the dugout before hitting in the bottom of the 11th, players encouraged each other, reminding themselves that the game wasn’t over.

“I think it’s been consistent,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said when asked about the mood of the team despite facing a deficit. “I think everything that led up to that these last couple games allows us that confidence that we’re one swing of the bat away or a couple big hits away.”

With the win, the Rays took a one-game lead over the Indians, who lost 9-4 to the Phillies on Saturday, for the second AL Wild Card spot with seven games left in the regular season.

“We have the mentality to try and get into the postseason,” said Adames, who connected on his 19th home run of the season. “Everybody has that mentality that we know we have to win, because we know we’re competing with a tough team like Cleveland and Oakland, who are two teams that are winning a lot."

It was yet another win that demonstrated the resilience the club has shown all season, but especially over the past couple of weeks. Saturday marked the Rays' ninth walk-off win of the season and seventh in their past 20 home games.

“For some reason, the stretch we’re in right now, there’s not a lead for the other team that’s really safe,” Lowe said. “We have so many guys off the bench who can come in and get it done, and starters and experienced guys and young guys want to contribute somehow. When Travis hits that huge double, it’s encouraging for everybody. We’re excited and thankful.”

Once Lowe and the rest of the team got into the clubhouse, the celebration continued. Kevin Kiermaier and Heredia led a dance party, and the strobe lights inside the clubhouse were still flashing when reporters entered.

It’s starting to feel like a special run for the Rays. And for a team that likes to celebrate every win, it would be tough to find a better one than Saturday's, at least for now.

“This is definitely one of the most memorable ones,” Rays pitcher Tyler Glasnow said. “It was pretty awesome.”