ST. PETERSBURG — Brandon Lowe was talking to the ball, wanting it to keep flying.
Christian Bethancourt had just brought the Rays to life, homering to lead in the bottom of the ninth inning with the team’s home unbeaten streak on the line. With a runner on base, Lowe made a full count and drove the ball to right field. He said it wasn’t a solid feeling, so he tried to want it and pray it out of the park.
Whatever he did on Friday night, it worked. Lowe smashed what he believes was his first career home run to rally the Rays to an 8-7 win over the White Sox in front of 17,973 at Tropicana Field.
“It’s pretty awesome. It’s an amazing feeling,” Lowe said. “I think this might be my first home run of my life, honestly. It’s always awesome. There is no way to minimize all of this. Anytime – if it’s a walk – it’s going to be great.
“So the starting circuit definitely plays it up a notch.”
It was the Rays’ 11th consecutive victory at the Trop to start the season, the longest home winning streak to start a season since the Dodgers won 13 in a row in 2009. All three homers, including a shot from the Harold Ramirez’s first inning, and Bethancourt’s and Lowe’s in the ninth, gave the Rays at least one in each of their first 20 games to start this season, tying a 2019 record set by the Mariners.
Tampa Bay, which improved to 17-3 with the win, hit a major league-leading 45 home runs.
“It was a really good win. I don’t know if we can say we saw that coming,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. love the way we stayed in. We kept it there, gave to our offense, which was really good all year – we talked about it – (a chance) and probably had the right guys.
“After the home run (from Bethancourt), hit the top of the lineup, and Brandon wasn’t happy with his last at bat. He let the bats and helmets know it, then he took it out on the ball at bat after.
There were plenty of reasons for the Rays to be frustrated early on.
Calvin Faucher, entering the rotation with Jeffrey Springs and Zach Eflin on the disabled list, managed just two innings. After the Rays gave him a 4-0 lead on Ramirez’s two-run homer and Josh Lowe’s brace, Faucher allowed the White Sox to score three in the top of the second.
Jalen Beeks took over in third and things got ugly. He tied a franchise record by walking five batters and going only two-thirds of an inning.
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“With the incredible pitching team we have, we know we’re going to have nights like this. Guys aren’t perfect,” Bethancourt said. “Guys, these are not robots that are going to throw big strikes every time, and they are humans like everyone else.
“It was great that the offense was able to get them back, and then we kept saying, ‘We gotta play 27 outs, we gotta hold the line, play 27 outs and things are going to happen. “and we started (Friday).
White Sox right-hander Michael Kopech had settled in after giving up all four runs in the first, and the Rays didn’t touch him again until the fourth. Ramirez started with a single and scored on Yandy Diaz’s single. Kopech ended up giving Chicago five innings, limiting the Rays to five runs on six hits and four walks. He took out nine.
Bethancourt said he was just looking to get to base with a walk as he led the ninth. He was very happy when he thought he had hit a double, but the line he threw into right field cleared the yellow line. After a review of the umpire team on the field, Bethancourt was hit with a home run. The call withstood a video replay challenge from the White Sox.
“We have guys who can definitely do some damage,” Cash said. “I think what the confidence is, we’ve got so many guys that can give you quality hitters: see pitches, get good count, and then there’s damage potential for a lot of our hitters.”
Yandy Diaz followed Bethancourt with a single to set up Lowe’s success. Lowe went into a full count and wasn’t even sure he had hit the ball hard enough to do any damage.
“I haven’t been perfectly successful the way I feel when I hit home runs,” he said. “It was one of those that I was sort of ready to release. I was praying it was okay.”
He went 374 feet, far enough to overcome the Rays’ pitching issues.
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