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Nathaniel Lowe Early At-Bat Sets 'Tone' for Texas Rangers Clinching ALDS Win

Nathaniel Lowe's 15-pitch at-bat led to a flyout for the first baseman, but a five-run second inning for the rest of the Texas Rangers that followed.

ARLINGTON, Texas — For 15 pitches, Texas Rangers first baseman Nathaniel Lowe held a sellout crowd at Globe Life Field transfixed.

He hit foul ball after foul ball after foul ball on offerings from Baltimore Orioles starter Dean Kremer. Lowe dispensed several souvenirs before he finally, harmlessly, flew out to left field for the first out of the bottom of the second inning.

But the damage was already done.

“That kind of at-bat sets the tone for the inning,” Rangers third baseman Josh Jung said after the Rangers won 7-1 to sweep Baltimore in three games in the American League Division Series.

Texas advanced to the AL Championship Series for the first time since 2011 and will face the winner of the Houston Astros-Minnesota Twins ALDS.

Oct 10, 2023; Arlington, Texas, USA; Texas Rangers first baseman Nathaniel Lowe (30) celebrates with third baseman Josh Jung (6) after hitting a solo home run in the sixth inning against the Baltimore Orioles during game three of the ALDS for the 2023 MLB playoffs at Globe Life Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Nathaniel Lowe celebrates with Josh Jung after a sixth-inning solo homer in Game 3.

Jung hit behind Lowe on Tuesday night. He stood in the on-deck circle and watched every single one of Kremer’s 15 pitches. He saw Kremer’s four-seam fastball, his cutter and his sinker. He saw Kremer change speeds from 95 to 89 mph.

He watched Lowe foul off nine pitches — including seven in a row — a display that even got the attention of the crowd, who started cheering every time Lowe fouled off a pitch.

When Jung stepped in with one out, he saw everything he needed to see against a pitcher in which he went 1-for-4 against in a game in May in Baltimore.

“He feels like he’s on the ropes, he’s got to keep throwing so many pitches,” Jung said. “No matter the outcome of that battle that was a win for our offense.”

Jung swung at the first pitch he saw, a 92-mph sinker in the bottom left corner of the zone and singled.

And the rally was on.

“I hope so, I hope so, because I ran out of gas pretty early,” Lowe said about whether his at-bat sparked that five-run rally. “But you know, no timeouts left, you have to keep going. I got something in play and the guys behind me did a great job.”

As much as Lowe ran out of gas, Kremer might have, too. In the pitch clock era, when you have to throw a pitch every 20-30 seconds, pitchers have to fight through that sort of adversity — and the frustration that comes with it.

“I had a couple of those tonight,” Rangers starter and winning pitcher Nathan Eovaldi said. “I think it was Adley (Rutschman) and (Jordan) Westburg. They had these longer at-bats and I was fortunate to get them out. But when Nate has that kind of at-bat, the pitch count rises and we see more pitches.”

After Leody Taveras flew out to Westburg at third base, the Orioles thought they might escape. But then Marcus Semien doubled Jung to third, Baltimore intentionally walked Corey Seager, Mitch Garver doubled home Jung and Semien, followed by Adolis García’s three-run bomb to left field, which made it 6-1.

“I felt good about (Lowe’s) at-bat. I said that's going to take a toll. I think it did a little bit,” Rangers manager Bruce Bochy said.

Lowe’s 15-pitch at-bat tied for the third longest in the postseason since MLB started tracking pitch counts in 1988.

But his at-bat in the sixth inning was just as relevant. His solo home run gave the Rangers a seventh run. It was his first postseason home run. He entered the game batting under .200 and slid to seventh in the order. At least one teammate believes what happened in the second helped Lowe in the sixth.

“I truly believe that affected him getting a home run later in the game because he’d seen so many pitches,” Eovaldi said.

Lowe is dealing with issues off the field. His brother, Josh, revealed during the AL Wild Card series that he and Nathaniel’s mother, Wendy, is fighting brain cancer and isn’t coming to games due to treatment.

With that weighing on him, Lowe showed some real emotion as he started to round the bases in the sixth.

“To hit the home run, I think you could see a sense of relief. ‘Okay, like, I'm back,’” Bochy said. “But he felt good before the game. He said, ‘I feel really good.’ Sure enough, goes out there and hits a home run.”

Lowe reflected on the home run after the game.

“Yeah, I’ve kind of grinded a little bit, man,” Lowe said. “But you know we’ve got a bunch of guys contributing and I finally got a chance to contribute.”

Lowe contributed twice on Tuesday night. One was easy to see, the other one you had to see to understand.

You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard

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