Brandon Lowe is working with a modest six-year $24 million contract for the Tampa Bay Rays and he earned every quarter of it during the shortened regular season — a team-leading 14 home runs and 37 RBI in 57 games.
Then came the postseason and it was if he disappeared into the Witness Protection Program. Where was he?
In his first 44 plate appearances he didn’t have an extra base hit and he began Game 2 of the World Series hitting .107 in 66 plate appearances.
Then the real Brandon Lowe re-appeared.
The Rays second baseman clobbered two home runs, the flashpoint for a 6-4 Tampa Bay victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers to even the series at one win apiece.
Lowe homered in the first inning to give the Rays a 1-0 lead and blasted a two-run homer in the fifth to give his team a 5-0 lead.
“It felt good to get back contributing to the team,” said Lowe. “I got a pitch to handle and was able to put us in front (with his first home run).”
The Rays were blasted, 8-3, in Game One and Lowe said, “We just flushed that one. No matter what happened the day before, everybody in our locker room was going to go out there tonight and give it everything they have, no matter what it is. They beat us yesterday and we knew we couldn’t change that. We had to show up and take care of today.”
Tampa Bay starter Blake Snell pitched 4 2/3 hitless innings with nine strikeouts before giving up a two-run home run in the fifth to Chris Taylor.
The multi-talented, well-armed, hard-throwing Tampa Bay bullpen took it from there, although the Dodgers drew some perspiration late in the game, coming from 6-2 down to 6-4 early in the eighth inning.
Asked what made him effective, Snell said, "I would say it was the mix. That’s a really good team with some aggressive guys. I had success today, things went my way.
The Dodgers, tearing a page out of Tampa Bay’s playbook, started an ‘Opener,’ relief pitcher Tony Gonsolin and went through seven pitchers.
The second hitter Gonsolin faced, Lowe, sent one out of the premises, his first home run that gave the Rays a 1-0 lead.
Gonsolin had a runner on third with one out in the Tampa Bay second. He was replaced by former Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher Dylan Floro.
Manuel Margot tried to score from third on Willy Adames' grounder to short and was thrown out. Margot was then thrown out trying to steal second, leaving it at 1-0 for the Dodgers.
Tampa Bay starter Blake Snell walked two in the second and the Dodgers had two on with one out. The mini-rally fizzled when A.J. Pollock popped out and Kike Hernandez struck out.
With a runner on first and two outs in the fourth, the Dodgers continued their cavalcade of pitchers by bringing in Duston “Carrot Top” May, LA’s fourth pitcher.
This one didn’t work. May gave up an opposite-field against-the-shift single to Margot and a line drive, two-run double by Joey Wendle to give the Rays a 3-0 lead.
Lowe struck again in the fifth after Austin Meadows singled. Lowe then drove his second home run of the game, one that bounced off the top of the left field wall, a two-run home run that lifted the Rays to a 5-0 lead.
The Dodgers didn’t have a hit off Snell and he had struck out nine when he walked Hernandez with two outs in the fifth. Suddenly, the Dodgers had two runs on one hit. Taylor crushed a two-run home run to right field, slicing Tampa Bay’s lead to 5-2.
Snell issued another walk and a single to Corey Seager and his night was over. Nick Anderson arrived on the scene to strikeout Justin Turner to leave two Dodgers stranded.
LA’s fifth pitcher, Joe Kelly, gave up a run in the sixth on Wendle’s sacrifice fly, his third RBI of the night, and it was 6-2.
The Dodgers retrieved that run in the bottom of the sixth on a home run by Will Smith, reducing Tampa Bay’s margin to three.
Poker-hot Seager drew the Dodgers to within two runs by leading the eighth with a home run off Pete Fairbanks, Seager’s seventh home run of the postseason.
Turner followed Seager’s home run with a double and the Dodgers had the potential tying run at the plate with no outs. Muncy flied to right and Smith lined a bullet right at third baseman Wendle for the second out.
The Rays replaced Fairbanks with left hander side-armer Aaron Loup to face left handed Cody Bellinger. Bellinger took a called third strike to leave it at 6-4.
Loup stayed in for the ninth and struck out Edwin Rios on three pitches and retired Austin Barnes on a fly ball. With two outs and nobody on, closer Diego Castillo came in and struck out Taylor on three pitches to end it.
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