DETROIT -- After Brandon Lowe flied out to center field in the first inning Thursday night at Comerica Park, Yandy Díaz approached the Rays’ slugging second baseman in the dugout to deliver a good-natured jab. “I told him he doesn't have any power,” Díaz said, laughing, through interpreter Manny Navarro.
When Lowe came to the plate in the third inning, with Díaz on first base again, he launched a high changeup from Tigers starter Drew Hutchison out to right field. The ball sailed 373 feet for a two-run homer, but Díaz initially moved back to first, as if he was going to have to tag up.
This time, Lowe had something to say to Díaz in the dugout: “I yelled at him. I was like, 'That was eight rows deep, man! Get running!'”
And Tampa Bay has won back-to-back games for the first time since the All-Star break with the kind of offensive performance it expects to see more often down the stretch.
“You saw it so much last year,” said starter Jeffrey Springs, who bounced back in his own right by striking out six over six innings while allowing two unearned runs. “B-Lowe missed some time with injury. Randy is starting to find his stride again. It's very contagious. We've got some really good guys in the lineup that, as they continue to roll, it's going to be a lot of fun moving forward.”
The Rays seemed to be having plenty of fun on Thursday, despite a 4-8 start to the second half and a rainy afternoon that scuttled some of their pregame plans. Manager Kevin Cash was joking with players before the game -- “getting everyone loose,” Lowe said -- when he approached Lowe, the DH in the series opener.
“He's like, 'You have one job tonight,’” Lowe recalled. “He said, 'Hit the baseball.'
“So I came up to him after I hit the home run, and I was like, 'Is that good enough for you?'”
“He hit like a DH,” Cash said afterward. “That was awesome. … He's a special hitter, All-Star-caliber hitter.”
Lowe has looked like it since returning from a two-month absence due to a stress reaction in his lower back. The Rays’ leading home run hitter each of the past two years, Lowe played through pain as he produced a .212/.293/.415 slash line in his first 32 games. Since coming back on July 16, he’s 19-for-56 (.339) with three homers, four doubles and seven RBIs in 14 games.
In other words, Lowe is hitting like himself. He’s feeling that way, too.
“It's really nice to swing and not hurt,” Lowe said. “I guess I didn't really realize how debilitating it was. It was a self-conscious thing, where if something hurts, your body kind of pulls back. … I'm glad we found it and I'm honestly thankful for my time on the IL. I think it really helped me mature as a baseball player.”
The Rays are still without several of their key hitters -- Mike Zunino and Kevin Kiermaier for the season, and Wander Franco, Manuel Margot and Harold Ramírez for a few more weeks -- but Thursday was a reminder of what they can do when Lowe and Arozarena are hot at the same time.
Arozarena reached on a pair of early infield singles before slapping an RBI single to left in the seventh inning, then squaring up a 106.4-mph RBI double to left in the ninth.
“Everyone’s happy. Everyone's feeling content. Everyone's feeling good,” Arozarena said through Navarro. “I think that we did a good job of being happy in the dugout. Keeping everyone kind of messing around keeps everybody a little bit not as stressed out, usually, and I think that's going to help the team out and keep good vibes around.”
That and, sure, maybe a little well-meaning trash talk among friends.
“It's that kind of fun that we have that really makes coming to the ballpark every day enjoyable,” Lowe said. “Sometimes it can be a grind, but coming in with these guys in the clubhouse, there's never a dull moment.
“You just have fun all the time. That's one of the things that makes us so good.”