Kevin Cash was well aware his best player during the regular season was in a Gary Sanchez-like funk ever since the postseason opened.
Yet when the Rays’ manager filled out the lineup card for Wednesday night’s Game 2 of the World Series against the Dodgers at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, there in the second spot was the frigid Brandon Lowe.
Cash said he didn’t consider dropping the left-handed hitting Lowe in the order, never mind giving him a seat on the bench.
With his manager’s confidence on display, Lowe hit two homers to lead the Rays to a 6-4 victory that evened the best-of-seven Series at a game apiece heading into Thursday’s day off.
“With Brandon in particular, we are not here if it wasn’t for him. We all want to see him get hot. It is getting magnified simply because it is Brandon Lowe and what he did during the season,’’ Cash said of Lowe, who entered Game 2 in a 6-for-56 (.107) postseason slide. “We got a number of guys throughout this lineup that we would like to see get hot and continue to have confidence they will.’’
Lowe homered with the bases empty in the first inning and went deep again in the fifth with Austin Meadows on base.
Blake Snell held the Dodgers without a hit until Chris Taylor, the No. 9 hitter, swatted a two-run homer in the fifth. When Mookie Betts followed with a walk and Corey Seager singled, Cash called for Nick Anderson, who retired Justin Turner to end the inning.
In 4 ²/₃ innings, Snell allowed two runs, two hits, walked four and struck out nine.
The Rays, leading 6-3 heading into the eighth inning, started to sweat quickly when Seager led off with a home run against Pete Fairbanks and Turner followed with a bloop double into right field.
Fairbanks retired Max Muncy on a routine fly to right for the first out. That brought Will Smith, who had homered in the sixth, to the plate representing the potential tying run. Smith lined out to third baseman Joey Wendle. Enter lefty Aaron Loup to face Cody Bellinger and he caught him looking at a 2-2 pitch to preserve the two-run lead.
Loup struck out the first two batters in the ninth and Diego Castillo came in to record the final out, a strikout of Taylor, for the save.
Snell started the home fifth with a five-run lead and had not allowed a hit. The only Dodgers baserunners had been Muncy and Cody Bellinger, who had walked in the second. In the fifth, Snell induced Bellinger to ground out, struck out AJ Pollock and walked Kiké Hernandez before Taylor sent his 80th pitch beyond the right-field wall for an opposite-field homer that cut the Rays’ lead to 5-2.
In the top of the fifth, Lowe’s second homer of the game followed Austin Meadows’ two-out single off Dustin May and extended the Rays’ lead to 5-0.
With two outs in the fourth, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts called for the right-handed May to face Wendle with Manuel Margot and Ji-Man Choi on base. May, the fourth Dodgers pitcher to that point, gave up a two-run double that boosted the AL champions’ lead to 3-0.
The Rays had been helped when shortstop Seager, playing on the right side of second base in the shift, bobbling Choi’s one-out ground ball and lost a chance to get an inning-ending double play.
Through three innings, Snell struck out six, issued two walks and didn’t allow a hit.
Snell walked Muncy leading off the home second and Bellinger with one out, but rebounded to retire Pollock on a foul pop and stranded two by striking out Hernandez.
Leading 1-0 after Lowe’s opposite-field home run in the first inning, the Rays made two outs on the bases in the second.
Margot opened the second with walk off Tony Gonsolin and swiped second with Wendle at the plate. Wendle’s fly to center moved Margo to third. With the infield in, Willy Adames hit a ground ball to Seager that turned into an easy out at the plate since Margot broke on contact. Adames attempted to steal second and was originally called safe, but the Dodgers challenged the call and Adames was ruled out to end the inning.