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Rays overcome adversity to reach fifth straight postseason

Mark Parker

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Jose Siri took batting practice to gauge how his fractured right hand felt before today's Wild Card matchup between the Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers. He will start in centerfield after missing nearly three weeks. Photos by Mark Parker.

The Tampa Bay Rays begin a fifth consecutive World Series chase at home today; however, an extended member of the team’s family will not make it to Tropicana Field.

Rays’ right fielder Josh Lowe’s mother, Wendy, has brain cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy. Josh made the emotional announcement in Tampa Bay’s clubhouse just before the team’s Oct. 2 workout.

Wendy’s older son, Nathaniel, also made his major league debut with the Rays. He now plays first base for the Texas Rangers, and the two teams face off in Major League Baseball’s American League (AL) Wild Card Series this week.

“I asked her if it’s ok if I said something,” Josh Lowe said. “She said, ‘Yes,’ because the more people that know, the more prayers that can be had for her.”

Lowe said his mother is three weeks into a six-week treatment. He remained confident that she would complete the cycle and have other opportunities to watch her sons play in the postseason.

While Lowe is unsure if his father will attend the game, he said the team “has been everything for me” through the difficult experience.“They’ve been here for me for every single minute that I need,” Lowe said.

“I just can’t say enough good things about them.”

The Rays have rallied around each other through significant adversity this season. Injuries decimated a formidable pitching rotation after their historic start in April.

Major League Baseball placed star shortstop Wander Franco on administrative leave in August. Team officials have cleaned out his locker.

Lowe said the Rays overcoming personal and collective adversity to win 99 games and secure home-field advantage in the Wild Card round “says a lot” about the team’s character.

“Especially when you look around this clubhouse and see the different names that are not able to compete in this postseason,” Lowe told the Catalyst. “It says a lot about our front office and how deep our system is – the ‘next man up’ mentality.

“We really care for each other. I think we play for the name on the front of our jersey more than the name on the back. It’s just a special bond here between everybody and this team.”

Lowe, 25, bounced around the minor leagues after making his MLB debut in 2021. Rays manager Kevin Cash noted Lowe’s contributions in his first full season with the team.

Lowe has posted a .292 batting average with 20 home runs, 32 stolen bases and batted in 83 runs. “With all that stuff on his mind back home, it’s that much more impressive,” Cash said.

“Teams have adversity over six months; it’s inevitable,” he added. “We are fortunate we have a solid group of people inside the clubhouse. Players and staff have done a tremendous job of keeping the vibe.”

Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash.

The Rays lost starting pitchers Jeffrey Springs and Drew Rasmussen to injuries by mid-May. Ace Shane McClanahan’s season was over in August.

The team’s lineup went without Brandon Lowe, Taylor Walls, Manuel Margot, Jose Siri and Luke Raley throughout the year. However, Cash credited the team’s front office for acquiring and developing key cogs in the Rays’ playoff race.

“We’re fortunate to have good players and good people,” Cash said. “We’re fortunate to have both.”

Those “good players” include Yandy Diaz, who became the team’s first player to win a batting title after hitting .330 this season. Isaac Paredes knocked 31 homers and batted in 98 runs.

Fan-favorite Randy Arozarena made the All-Star Game before cooling off some down the stretch but is known for stepping up in big games. Tyler Glasnow, Tampa Bay’s Game 1 pitcher, struck out 162 batters in just 120 innings after missing the season’s first two months with an oblique strain.

Game 2 starter Zach Elfin won a career-high 16 games in his first season as a Ray. Glasnow credited the team’s “relaxed” culture for helping players overcome adversity.

“I think when things come up, it’s kind of reinforced like, ‘Don’t worry about it if you don’t have to. Just try to go out, have fun, relax and have a good time,’” Glasnow said.

From left: Mya Su’a, 17; Justin Su’a, head of mental performance; Eliana Su’a; star pitcher Tyler Glasnow; and Eliana’s mother, Melissa Su’a.

Pitcher Shane Baz, still recovering from an elbow injury suffered last year, called playing in St. Petersburg “big” for the team. He also noted that Tampa Bay fans can witness “a great team in the making” that has made five straight postseason appearances with a significantly smaller payroll than AL East rivals like the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees.

“I’m a believer that hungry dogs run faster,” Baz said. “And we got a lot of young guys that are fiery and scrappy – I just think we have a dangerous team.”

The Game 1 matchup between the Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers is set to begin at 3:08 p.m.

 

 

 

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