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Rays’ Nate Lowe gets his first major-league start at third base

“Super cool” is how he describes the opportunity Wednesday against the Dodgers.
Rays rookie starter Brendan McKay delivers a pitch during the first inning against the Dodgers on Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019. [MARK J. TERRILL  |  AP]
Rays rookie starter Brendan McKay delivers a pitch during the first inning against the Dodgers on Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019. [MARK J. TERRILL | AP]
Published Sep. 19, 2019
Updated Sep. 19, 2019

LOS ANGELES — There couldn’t have been any Rays person, or computer, who would’ve projected Nate Lowe to be making his first major-league start at third base in critical Game 153 during their tense battle for a playoff spot.

But there Lowe was Wednesday night, and at historic Dodger Stadium at that.

“Super cool,’’ he said before the game.

The circumstances that led to Lowe being there were multilayered.

Manager Kevin Cash was searching for ways to boost the offense and wanted to add a lefty hitter without the benefit of the DH slot. Eric Sogard remained sidelined by a sore foot, as he could have played second with Joey Wendle at third.

Lowe, who has gotten limited opportunity of late, looked to match up well with the right-handed pitchers the Dodgers were set to use. He went 1-for-3, including one at-bat versus a lefty. Lowe has been working at third recently with what Cash called “encouraging” results. With expanded rosters, the Rays easily can put in a defensive replacement when necessary, which they did for Lowe after tying the score at 3 in the fifth.

Lowe played third in high school and though he has been pretty much limited to playing first base in college and the pros, he’s confident he can handle it. The Rays started thinking about expanding his versatility during this season, and he made three starts there for Triple-A Durham and finished two other games, earning solid reviews from Bulls manager Brady Williams. (And, for what it’s worth, using former Rays reliever Ian Gibaut’s glove.)

“It was like a pretty positive surprise because for some reason I’m labeled as not a good defender,’’ Lowe said. “But I feel pretty good about it.’’

The Rays moved him to third during two games on this road trip and felt it was worth the gamble to give him a start.

And if the Rays want Lowe to spend more time at third going forward, he’s okay with that, too.

“During these last couple weeks of coming off the bench and kind of honestly getting my teeth kicked in, I’m molding what I need to do in the offseason to be a successful major-league player,’’ he said. “So if it’s standing at third for a little bit and adding a couple more skills to the repertoire, then we can work on that, too.’’

Snell game

Blake Snell felt good the day after his impressive return to the majors and, assuming no issues in playing catch on Thursday or in his bullpen session on Saturday, will start Monday against the Red Sox.

Snell used his fastball heavily in working two 1-2-3 innings, clocking 95-96 mph in striking out four of the six batters he faced, in his first start since July 29 surgery to remove from his elbow. Of the left-hander’s 26 pitches, only five were offspeed.

Cash on Wednesday noted how aggressive Snell was in attacking hitters. Snell said that was by design.

“The last time I was hurt (coming back from a broken toe in April) I was more of a defensive pitcher, more offspeed, not attacking as much,’’ he said. “I realized I don’t want to fall back into that hole of being defensive right out the gate. So (Tuesday) I was more so, going into it, I didn’t care who I was facing, I was going to throw a lot of fastballs. I was going to make them respect it.

“If I felt like someone had a good swing, I would get them off of it to go right back to it. But for the most part with this lineup I was going to attack them regardless. I didn’t care who was coming up. That’s what was best for me to get where I want to be for when the next couple games do come.’’

Miscellany

• Austin Meadows went into Wednesday with a career-high 15-game hitting streak, the longest by a Ray this year and the longest active streak in the majors.

• Cash said they are hoping Sogard, limited since fouling a ball of his right foot Sept. 6, can return this weekend.

• With the 8:10 Tampa Bay time start Wednesday night, the Rays were looking at roughly a 6 a.m. arrival Thursday in Tampa.

• Tuesday’s Dodger Stadium crowd of 48,663 was the largest the Rays have played in front of since 2013. Their high this season had been 43,173 at Yankee Stadium on July 15. The 48,663 was slightly less than the total of the Rays’ five previous home games: 50,393. Blake Snell noted the atmosphere as a positive factor in his successful return. “I was just happy it was in L.A., in a good stadium, with good fans, so I could actually feel it,’’ he said.

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