- ESPN MLB insider
Author of “The Arm: Inside the Billion-Dollar Mystery of the Most Valuable Commodity in Sports”
ARLINGTON, Texas — Through all the struggles, all the moments when it looked like he should be dropped down in the lineup or out of it altogether, Brandon Lowe believed.
He had built himself into one of the American League’s best hitters, and no slump — not even one during the playoffs — could derail that. The Tampa Bay Rays kept believing in Lowe, too. In Game 2 of the World Series, both were rewarded handsomely for their faith.
Lowe became the first player to hit two opposite-field home runs in a World Series game, and the Rays’ bullpen bent but didn’t break as they held on for a 6-4 victory Wednesday to even the series at one game apiece.
The 26-year-old Lowe, an All-Star two years ago as a rookie and a down-ballot MVP candidate this year, had endured a brutal postseason: 6-for-56 with 19 strikeouts and not one multihit game among the 15 the Rays had played. Yet Tampa Bay never wavered — Lowe sat only one game and pinch hit in it — in its confidence that Lowe would find his swing.
Rays manager Kevin Cash, who said before Game 2 that the team would “stick with guys we have a lot of faith in,” explained why the team believes in Lowe.
“The biggest reason that makes us all believe it is he’s shown over time that he’s a really good hitter, really good player, and sometimes guys, you got to let them go through some tough patches, and he’s been in one,” Cash said after Wednesday’s win. “It was exciting for the first home run. The second one really ignited them. You’ve seen it. You’ve covered him. He can go quiet for a little while, but he can get as hot as anybody in baseball. Hopefully, that’s the trend that we’re looking at going forward.”
Lowe had, after all, figured out how to leverage his 5-foot-10, 185-pound frame into one of the great power swings in the AL. With extra time spent analyzing video and recognizing flaws in his swing, he corrected it and saw the dividends early in Game 2.
Lowe, hitting in the No. 2 hole, punished a 95 mph fastball from rookie starter Tony Gonsolin out to left field, giving the Rays an early advantage. He piled on with a two-run shot off rookie Dustin May in the fifth inning, pushing the Rays’ advantage to 5-0.
“Just pure joy going into that dugout after hitting that [first] home run,” Lowe said. “Everyone’s happy. Everyone’s jumping up and down. It’s not an individual thing out there. It’s everyone with the team. Whatever helps the team win.”
Said Rays starter Blake Snell, “I think B-Lowe set the tone. When he hit the first home run, it kinda got everyone juiced up. From that point you felt the momentum leaning our way for the rest of the game.”
In the meantime, Snell hadn’t allowed a hit, striking out two Dodgers in each of the first four innings. Following the fourth, Snell bounded off the mound, shouting into the expanse of Globe Life Field, to no one and everyone among the crowd of 11,472. He looked like his Cy Young-winning self, his fastball, curveball and slider confounding a group of Dodgers hitters who in Game 1 piled up eight runs through power, patience and proficiency wielding the bat.
The fifth ended Snell’s dreams of a no-hitter — and his night altogether. With two out, he walked Kiké Hernandez and served up a home run to Chris Taylor. After a walk to Mookie Betts and a single by Corey Seager, Snell’s night was over.
Nick Anderson wiped out the inherited runners by striking out Justin Turner, and though he allowed a solo home run to Will Smith and reliever Pete Fairbanks served one up to Seager, the cushion provided by Lowe stood as left-hander Aaron Loup recorded two outs and right-hander Diego Castillo the final out for the save. The win went to Anderson.
Lowe’s multihomer game was the 55th in World Series history, the seventh by a second baseman and the first by a Rays player. And it continued Tampa Bay’s trend of needing home runs to score. The Rays set a record with 28 home runs this postseason, and entering the World Series, nearly 72% of their runs had come via the long ball.
The return of the Lowe who helped guide the Rays to the AL East title was a welcome sign for a Tampa Bay team whose offensive struggles were of paramount concern — particularly with the prospect of falling down 0-2 to the Dodgers. Lowe had hit .269/.362/.554 with 14 home runs in 56 games during the regular season and ranked just behind Juan Soto and Ronald Acuña Jr. in wins above replacement.
Now, after a Thursday off-day, the teams return Friday for Game 3 with the best pitching matchup of the series: Dodgers ace Walker Buehler against Rays stalwart Charlie Morton.
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