SAN DIEGO — Brandon Lowe was the Rays' best and most productive hitter during the regular season.
And he has been among their worst and least-productive in the postseason.
After going 0-for-3 with a walk in Thursday’s 5-1 loss to the Yankees in Game 4, he is now 0-for-15 for the series and 2-for-23 for the postseason with six strikeouts. The run he drove in Thursday with a ground-ball out was his first in six games.
Lowe is hitless in his past 18 at-bats, going back to a first-inning single in Game 2 of the Wild Card Series against Toronto.
Heading into Friday’s fifth and final game of the American League Division Series, and with Yankees ace Gerrit Cole on the mound, the Rays obviously could use some help from their team MVP.
So what’s it going to take to get him going?
"One big hit,'' manager Kevin Cash said. "I think you stay consistent with your approach, trust what’s got you there. Brandon, he’s been our best hitter this year. He’s going to get out of it.''
Lowe knocked in the Rays' only run Thursday, and his first of the postseason, and on a ground ball that could have been a double play.
"You want him up there in those spots,'' Cash said. "He’s working. It’s a matter of getting a pitch (to hit).''
Lowe hit .269 during the season with 14 homers, 37 RBIs and a .916 OPS in 56 games.
The postseason was a disappointment last year also for Lowe as he returned from injury in September and hit .211 (4-for-19) with one homer and one RBI.
Breaking news: Arozarena is human
On Thursday, Randy Arozarena was not the best baseball player on the planet, held hitless for the first time this postseason after a record run through the Rays' first five games.
The success of the rookie outfielder, whom the Rays are calling “The Cuban Rocket” in their media notes, has been a popular topic, and both he and the rest of the team are enjoying it.
"He’s having a lot of fun right now, and we’re having a lot of fun with everything that he’s doing on and off the field,'' Cash said. "High-energy guy that really likes to play, and he’s showing it to the world. So we’re really happy for Randy.''
Drake sidelined; Richards added
Reliever Oliver Drake’s injury-marred season is over due to a right flexor strain he apparently sustained while pitching in Game 1 of the series.
The Rays received permission to take Drake off the roster Thursday afternoon and replace him with Trevor Richards. Under Major League Baseball rules, a player taken off the roster due to injury can’t return for the next series. Though Drake would be eligible for the World Series, should the Rays advance, the nature of the injury will prevent him from pitching.
Drake made only 11 appearances during the season, spending more than a month on the injured list due to right biceps tendinitis, and he was not sharp after his Sept. 15 return. His ability as a right-hander to get out lefty hitters is a strength.
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"Obviously his season hasn’t gone the way that he would have liked or we would have liked,'' Cash said. "He pitched in Game 1, he felt it after the outing but felt like he was going to be 100 percent able. Then the next day he came in and threw during batting practice and was like, ‘I don’t think it’d be a good idea for me to go tonight.’ So we needed a day. …
"Ideally you can maybe buy a day in the postseason, but you can’t buy multiples. We had a doctor (check him). It looks to be a flexor strain we’re probably going to find more information. But it is frustrating and disappointing for Ollie because as much as anybody, he wants to pitch. And believe me if he could pitch through it, he would. But this was something that we didn’t feel comfortable doing.''
The Rays have lost the past four times they’ve been in the Division Series — to the Rangers in 2010 and 2011, the Red Sox in 2013 and the Astros last year. Their only series win was in 2008, when they beat the White Sox, then the Red Sox in the ALCS and went to the World Series. ... The Rays will be the “home” team for Game 5 and bat last. … Three Yankees relievers combined for five innings Thursday and allowed just one baserunner, when Lowe walked in the eighth. … Uncertain of the Yankees pitching plans after Game 4 lefty starter Jordan Montgomery, Cash used a balanced lineup alternating five right-handed hitters and four lefties, and didn’t start right-handed hitting infielder Mike Brosseau, who pinch-hit in the seventh. … The Yankees have scored 45 runs in their first six postseason games. … The Rays had hit multiple homers in each of their 10 previous games against the Yankees.