Rays get their hits, laughs in win over Tigers

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DETROIT — Yandy Diaz has four inches and roughly 60 pounds on him, but Brandon Lowe couldn’t resist calling out his Rays teammate for questioning his power in Thursday’s 6-2 win over the Tigers.

Lowe flied out to center field in his first at-bat after Diaz drew a leadoff walk. So when they came up again in the third inning and Diaz again drew a walk, Lowe keenly noticed that as he drove a ball 373 feet over the right field fence, Diaz — expecting the ball to be caught — first headed back to the base to tag up.

“I asked Yandy why he was tagging up,” Lowe explained. “I yelled at him. I was like, ‘That was eight rows deep, man! Get running!’ He made a joke that I wasn’t strong enough to hit the first ball out, so that’s why he was kind of tagging up.”

Diaz cracked up, laughing as if he was embarrassed to get busted after realizing Lowe had shared their exchange with reporters.

“I told him he doesn’t have any power; I said that after the first at-bat,” Diaz said via team interpreter Manny Navarro. “When the (second) ball was initially hit, I went back to tag. But when I saw the flight path of the ball, then I realized it was out.”

The Rays could use the laughs.

The inconsistency of their injury-depleted offense and occasional long stretches of futility have been a big reason for their recent struggles, and some tenseness in their clubhouse.

Even worse, they have been getting very good pitching much of the time, such as the six solid innings Thursday from Jeffrey Springs. He allowed only four hits and two unearned runs (due in part to two Diaz errors at third base) while striking out six, showing increased velocity and better command.

But the win, just the Rays’ fifth in 13 games since the All-Star break, improving their record to 56-49, was due in large part to their strong offensive showing. They had 12 hits and five walks, with all but one starter contributing.

Lowe, hitting .345 (19-for-55) with three homers since his return from the injured list on July 16, led the way with the two-run home run and an RBI single. Diaz was in the middle of several rallies and scored on a wild pitch. Randy Arozarena rapped four hits, knocking in the last two runs.

“Everybody looked good,” Arozarena said via Navarro. “Everybody produced. Everybody did a little bit. Everybody put in their grain of sand, as I like to say. Hopefully, we can keep it going, continue to produce like we did (Thursday).”

The Rays looked a bit like they did during the good times in previous seasons.

“You saw it so much last year,” Springs said. “B. Lowe missed some time (this year) with injury. Randy is starting to find his stride again. It’s very contagious. We’ve got some really good guys in the lineup that as they continue to roll it’s going to be a lot of fun moving forward.”

Fun definitely was the theme Thursday, as the Rays won back-to-back games for the first time since before the break, holding on to their spot in the three-team American League wild-card field.

Manager Kevin Cash had a hand in that as well, teasing most of the hitters before the game about what was expected, such as Lowe getting a day in the designated hitter role.

“He came up — he kind of likes joshing with the guys before the game, getting everyone loose,” Lowe said. “He’s like, ‘You have one job tonight.’ He said, ‘Hit the baseball.’ So I came up to him after I hit the home run, and I was like, ‘Is that good enough for you?’”

Apparently it was, as Cash said postgame, “He hit like a DH. That was awesome.”

There was a lot to laugh at.

“It’s that kind of fun that we have that really makes coming to the ballpark every day enjoyable,” Lowe said. “Sometimes it can be a grind, but coming in with these guys in the clubhouse, there’s never a dull moment. You just have fun all the time. That’s one of the things that makes us so good.”

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