ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – It took Brandon Lowe 20 at-bats to get his first major league hit last week, so the Tampa Bay rookie wasn't about to let an 0-for-9 stretch bother him.
Lowe came through with a two-out, two-run single in the first inning Wednesday night, and the Rays went on to a 6-3 win over the Kansas City Royals.
"You get up to the big leagues and you feel that you have to go out and prove yourself," said Lowe, one of six Rays to produce two hits each in the club's fourth straight win. "I've been really stressing, trying to prove I belong here. Yesterday I was able to take a step back and relax and it worked out for the better."
Lowe is hitting .135 after 11 games, but he feels the worst might be over.
"All you want to be able to do is help the team win," he said. "I was searching, racking my brain and stressing out. Today I came in a little early, got in the cage and told myself to relax and don't stress, trust your skills."
Lowe and Mallex Smith drove in two runs each, and the Rays moved five games over .500 for the first time since July 2017. They had 14 hits, none of them with two outs.
"A lot of good offensive numbers tonight that we kind of needed," manager Kevin Cash said.
Lowe's two-run single came off Jakob Junis after hits by Michael Perez and Carlos Gomez.
Junis (6-12) allowed four runs on nine hits in 5 2/3 innings, striking out five. Only two of the runs were earned.
"He's been consistently sharp, especially the last four outings," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "I expect him to go out and make starts like this, give us a chance to win like he did."
Whit Merrifield led off the fourth with his ninth home run, the Royals' first hit of the game, extending his hitting streak to 11 games.
Hunter Dozier added a two-run homer in the eighth, the second of the game off Yonny Chirinos. Dozier's sixth homer of the season came on his 27th birthday.
Ryan O'Hearn had his first first multi-hit game for the Royals with three of their seven hits, but Rosell Herrera was thrown out at the plate for the game's final out after O'Hearn's third hit.
Rays opener Ryne Stanek pitched two hitless innings before Chirinos (2-5) took over. Chirinos gave up three runs on four hits while striking out four in five innings.
Sergio Romo pitched the ninth for his 18th save in 25 opportunities.
The loss clinched a sixth straight series loss for the Royals, who have lost 16 of 20 games overall and all six games against Tampa Bay this season. They dropped to 51 games under .500, matching the worst mark in comparison to .500 in team history.
Better late than never
Kevin Kiermaier, who had two hits and a walk, is hitting .357 in his last eight games, noteworthy mostly because he was batting .175 before that. "I've been pressing this whole year, trying to make up for all my lost time and all my (lack of) performance in one swing," the Rays center fielder said. "I've been trying to kill the ball all year and hit the ball 700 feet, and that's how I get myself out. You learn from things like this – being hurt and not playing the way you want to. It's a learning experience and now I'm instituting those experiences into my approach."
Getting a break
Rays rookie 1B Jake Bauers, mired in a 1-for-33 slide, was out of the lineup. "He's been pressing, there's no denying it," Cash said. "He's frustrated with himself." Bauers entered Wednesday hitting .209 with nine homers and 34 RBIs in 66 games.
Royals: OF Jorge Bonifacio, scratched from Tuesday's lineup with lower back stiffness, was on the bench again Wednesday, but available, Yost said.
Rays: OF Tommy Pham said he hopes to be back Friday after dislocating his right ring finger on a head-first dive back to first base on Tuesday. "It feels fine other than the swelling," Pham said.
Right-hander Tyler Glasnow (1-3, 4.10 ERA) will make his fifth start for the Rays in the season series finale Thursday night. Glasnow took his first loss Saturday at Boston, going 6 2/3 innings after a second inning in which he gave up three walks and four runs. Left-hander Danny Duffy (7-11, 4.90) will start for Kansas City. He hasn't started since Aug. 11 because of a left shoulder impingement.