By STEPHEN HAWKINS AP Baseball Writer
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Brandon Lowe kept finding his name near the top of Tampa Bay’s lineup even as his offensive struggles continued to mount this postseason.
After Lowe finally busted out in Game 2 of the World Series, the Rays and Dodgers are tied deep in the heart of Texas.
“Sometimes guys, you’ve got to allow them to go through some tough patches,” manager Kevin Cash said. “He will go quiet for a little while, but he can get as hot as anybody in baseball.”
Lowe hit two home runs to the opposite field, Tampa Bay’s bullpen held on late and the Rays beat Los Angeles 6-4 on Wednesday night.
“Yeah, those felt really good,” said Lowe, a 2019 All-Star who led the Rays with 14 homers and 37 RBIs this season. “It felt great to kind of get back and contribute to the team. They’ve been doing so well for the past month — it felt really good to get back and actually start doing stuff again.”
Blake Snell struck out nine in 4 2/3 innings for the Rays and didn’t allow a hit until Chris Taylor’s two-run homer trimmed it to 5-2 in the fifth. The Dodgers threatened to complete a big comeback in the eighth, but Tampa Bay’s relievers held firm.
Lowe and Joey Wendle each had three RBIs for the Rays, whose six runs and 10 hits were their most over the past 11 postseason games.
“I think today was a little bit better indicator of the kind of team that we are,” said Wendle, who had a two-run double and a sacrifice fly. “Just a complete win, complete team win.”
Nick Anderson got four outs for the victory. Diego Castillo earned the save when he struck out Taylor, the only batter he faced.
Pete Fairbanks went 1 2/3 innings and left-hander Aaron Loup threw a called third strike past slugger Cody Bellinger with a runner on second to end the eighth. Loup also retired the first two hitters in the ninth.
“They’ve got some really good pitchers. They got out to that early lead and we just weren’t able to overcome it,” Taylor said. “We did a pretty good job of fighting to the end and we just weren’t able to come up with the big hit we needed.”
After an off day, Game 3 in the best-of-seven Series matches two big-game pitchers starting on extra rest Friday night. Charlie Morton goes for the Rays against Walker Buehler.
Los Angeles was the “home team” for the first two games but will bat first in the next three.
Lowe hit a solo shot to left-center in the first off rookie Tony Gonsolin, putting the American League champion Rays ahead for the first time at this neutral-site World Series with their 27th homer of the postseason — matching a major league record. The second baseman was hitting .107 this postseason, and in an even worse 4-for-48 slide (.083) the past 13 games since the start of the AL Division Series.
“You’ve got to able to be tough-minded and Brandon is. A lot of our guys are,” Cash said. “We owe it to our guys to stick with them.
“Brandon, go ahead and get hot now, feel good about yourself.”
By the time Lowe went deep again in the fifth, his second opposite-field homer of the game — and the entire season — it was 5-0. That one bounced off the top of the left-field wall with a runner on against Dustin May, already the fourth Los Angeles pitcher.
Will Smith and NLCS MVP Corey Seager also homered for the Dodgers. Seager’s solo shot in the eighth was his seventh homer and 16th RBI, extending the franchise records he had already set this postseason. It’s the most homers by a shortstop in any MLB postseason.
Snell, the 2018 AL Cy Young Award winner, retired 10 straight before walking Kiké Hernández with two outs in the fifth and Taylor, the No. 9 batter, homered on his 80th pitch. Tampa Bay’s ace was out of the game two batters later, after Mookie Betts walked and Seager singled.
“He was outstanding,” Cash said. “He was awesome. Gave us everything that we needed.”
Anderson got out of the jam with a strikeout of Justin Turner, then gave up a solo homer to Smith in the sixth.
The Dodgers knew it would be primarily a bullpen game using various arms, instead of bringing back Buehler on short rest after ace lefty Clayton Kershaw threw six strong innings in their 8-3 win Tuesday night in Game 1.
“We didn’t have anybody that was on regular rest,” manager Dave Roberts said afterward, though he said he felt great with Buehler going in Game 3.
Roberts also said Julio Urías, who is 4-0 in four appearances this postseason after getting the last nine outs in the NLCS clincher, will start Game 4. Kershaw would then be ready on regular rest for Game 5.
Los Angeles used seven pitchers, and four of the first five allowed runs. The Dodgers were the first team to use four pitchers within the first four innings of a World Series game since Oakland against Cincinnati in 1990.
Gonsolin gave up Lowe’s first homer and was done after 1 1/3 innings. That was the shortest start in a World Series game since San Francisco’s Jake Peavy gave up five runs in 1 1/3 innings of a 10-0 loss at Kansas City in Game 6 of the 2014 World Series.
Snell attacked with breaking pitches in the strike zone, not his usual pattern, against a Dodgers team that doesn’t often chase. But less than a week after an aggressive hook by Cash to take Snell out of Game 6 of the ALCS after four innings, the left-hander still hasn’t completed six innings since July 2019.
“I’m not going to get mad at Cash. He’s got to manage, I’ve got to play. I’ve got to make it harder for him to come out and pull me,” Snell said. “I made it easy with the walk and the homer and then the walk. You can’t blame him. He’s trying to win a World Series game.”
A bobble by Hernández at second base proved costly, taking away a potential inning-ending double play in the fourth before the Dodgers changed pitchers again and gave up two runs. With one out and Randy Arozarena at first, Ji-Man Choi hit a grounder to Hernández, and by time the second baseman gathered the ball to get the force, Seager’s relay throw was late. Manuel Margot then greeted May, the third reliever, with a single before Wendle’s two-run double into the right-center gap for a 3-0 lead.
Snell’s nine strikeouts were the most in a World Series game by a pitcher who didn’t last five innings. … Lowe became the second player to have a multi-homer game in the World Series after entering with a sub-.200 batting average in that postseason, according to STATS. The other was Orioles slugger Eddie Murray in the 1983 clincher against Philadelphia.
Rays: Morton has won all three of his starts this postseason, including 5 2/3 scoreless innings in the deciding Game 7 of the ALCS against Houston. He faces the Dodgers for the first time since the 2017 World Series, when he pitched the final four innings for the Astros to win Game 7 in relief. The veteran right-hander also pitched in Game 4 of that Series, limiting LA to one run and three hits while striking out seven over 6 1/3 innings.
Dodgers: Buehler threw six shutout innings to win Game 6 of the NL Championship Series against Atlanta and force Game 7. His only previous World Series start was Game 3 against Boston in 2018, when he fired seven scoreless innings in the only game the Dodgers won.
By STEPHEN HAWKINS AP Baseball Writer