KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Timing is everything, right?
It was for Brandon Lowe, and in turn, the Rays, on Thursday.
Three minutes after the MLB announcement that he was voted the American League Rookie of the Month for April, Lowe took a swing toward May honors, lacing a two-run homer with two outs in the ninth that led the Rays to a 3-1 win over the Royals.
The timing of his dramatics was also good for the Rays. They bounced back from Wednesday’s doubleheader sweep by the lowly Royals to split the series, and as they headed off to Baltimore as the first American League team to 20 wins, they had a little bounce back in their step.
“That was really huge for (Lowe) doing that,” infielder Daniel Robertson said, “and more importantly for the team. That was a big hit for us.”
In the context of a 162-game season, losing the two games to the Royals on Wednesday was not necessarily a major concern. It was something that stung in the now but could be long forgotten later. But with seven losses in the Rays’ previous 12 games, some shine was coming off their MLB-best start. And with another loss and another series loss potentially looming, the Rays needed something good to happen.
“The past 10, 12 days, we’ve battled, and we’ve had to battle a little bit,” said Charlie Morton, who gave the Rays a strong 62/3-inning start. “To get up there in a tie ballgame and hit a go-ahead homer right there to close out a series, it’s a big deal. It’s a really big deal.”
Lowe, 24, is somewhat on the stoic side, enough so that he played along straight-faced in a postgame interview, saying he didn’t know about the rookie award when he hit the homer, though he was told in the morning. (“No idea at the time,” he said, “but it makes for a pretty cool story” …)
But Lowe did show some emotion as the ball cleared the rightfield fence, especially because he wasn’t sure he hit the Wily Peralta changeup well enough to get there, pleading for it to go — “One of those where you’re running and you’re kind of like, ‘Come on, get up! Stay up!’ Asking for it to do something for you” — then pumping a first as rounded first, maybe even flashing a smile.
“It was awesome,” Lowe said. “It was a really good feeling. I was pumped up to have it go out.”
Joy was spread in the dugout as well.
“It was pretty excited (in there),” Lowe said. “I think coming off (Wednesday), tight game the whole time through (Thursday), struggling to get runs out there, a little sigh of relief. Everyone was kind of excited.”
Lowe — he’s the one of the Rays’ two Lowes who pronounces it to rhyme with “wow” — has provided plenty of excitement this season, going back to his spring signing of a long-term deal that will pay him $24 million over six years and possibly up to $49 million over eight.
He led all AL rookies in April in a number of categories, including a .289 average, 6 homers, 17 RBIs, .917 OPS, a .350 on-base percentage, a .567 slugging percentage, 17 runs and 26 hits. He did so hitting in the top half of the order, and usually playing a solid second base.
Also, he showed more good timing, as his strong start to the season came while highly touted White Sox rookie outfielder Eloy Jimenez was hurt and with even more highly touted Blue Jays infielder Vlad Guerrero Jr. just getting started in the majors.
Lowe was honored to be honored.
“It’s incredible,” he said. “There’s so many good rookies that are playing right now that have put up some great numbers, and to be able to win this for the month is pretty special.”
Lowe, who during his two-month debut last season conveniently finished one at-bat under the limit of 130 to retain rookie eligibility, is the first Rays winner since Wil Myers in September 2013.
He hopes it is the start of something.
“It shows I’m good enough to not just be middle of the pack,” Lowe said. “That’s something that had been kind of a focus. All the hard work you put in in the offseason and in the season, and everything going through the minor leagues, it’s paying off. And it feels pretty good.”
His Rays mates — including Tyler Glasnow, who won AL pitcher of the month honors — were clearly pleased for him.
“You get called up, your first couple years in the big leagues, it’s really hard,” Morton said. “For him to put together and do some special things at the plate, he signs a contract, there’s a little bit of pressure there, he’s a pro. He goes about his business. He just wants to be a pro. … I’m happy for him.”
So was manager Kevin Cash.
“To win an award like that, you have to be doing something right, and he did it right again (Thursday),” Cash said. “He came up in a huge, clutch situation.”
Lowe prefers to talk about the team more than himself, but in a way he was describing both when asked about the ongoing success.
“It’s nice to show people we’re legit,” he said. “That it wasn’t just a hot start. It wasn’t just a good month. We’re here to stay.”
Timing can be everything.
Contact Marc Topkin at [email protected]. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.