A hot pitcher goes head-to-head with a hot hitter Tuesday night when the Tampa Bay Rays seek to make it two straight wins over the Oakland Athletics in St. Petersburg, Fla.
With his manager and teammates still buzzing over his powerful performance the day before, Rays second baseman Brandon Lowe belted his third home run in two days Monday to propel Tampa Bay to a 6-2 win in the series opener.
The 24-year-old, who hit just six homers as a rookie last season, already has recorded 14 this year.
His sixth-inning, two-run blast off of A's rookie Tanner Anderson gave the Rays a lead they never relinquished Monday. By his previous day's standard, the homer was a virtual popup, traveling just 388 feet.
Lowe, who is 5-foot-10, 185 pounds, got all of baseball's attention Sunday when he crushed a pair of home runs 435 and 455 feet at historic Fenway Park.
"Where he hit those two balls, not many guys hit them," Rays manager Kevin Cash gushed after the game. "Watching some of the Red Sox players from past years, they don't go up there very often. He hit them to the deepest part of the ballpark, and they were both no-doubters."
Lowe has had no such luck in his brief career against A's right-hander Mike Fiers, who will attempt to run his unbeaten streak of starts to seven.
Lowe did hit a deep flyout in his first of two at-bats against Fiers last September before grounding out the second time.
Fiers (5-3, 4.76 ERA) was the losing pitcher that night, allowing three runs in four innings. The loss dropped him to 1-2 with a 5.34 ERA in five career starts against the Rays.
The 33-year-old hasn't faced Tampa Bay this season. He is 3-0 during his six-game unbeaten run, allowing three or fewer runs in all six outings while going six or more innings five times.
"The relievers are being used a lot right now, so it's up to us starters to go deeper in these games and be more efficient to make it easier on them," Fiers told reporters after his last outing, a 7-4 win over the Los Angeles Angels on Thursday. "We know how good this bullpen is, but anytime a bullpen gets overused, it's tough. That's what I pride myself on, and so do all these starters, going deep in the game."
Fiers was matched up last September with a Rays "opener," Diego Castillo, and that will be the case again Tuesday when Tampa Bay sends right-hander Ryne Stanek (0-1, 2.78 ERA) to the mound for his 19th start of the season.
In five career games (two starts) against Oakland, Stanek is 1-1 with a 6.43 ERA. Stanek is expected to hand the ball off to lefty Jalen Beeks (5-0, 2.76 ERA) in the second or third inning. Beeks has never opposed the A's.
Stanek will have to deal with a hot hitter right off the bat in A's leadoff man Marcus Semien, who earned American League Player of the Week honors for the seven-day stretch ending Sunday. Semien hit .419 with two homers and nine RBI in the award-winning run.
Semien then continued his roll with two hits Monday on Oakland's loss.
The shortstop was the second A's player to earn Player of the Week honors this season. The first was Fiers, who was rewarded in May after the week in which he no-hit the Cincinnati Reds.
--Field Level Media
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