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Lowell, Player of the Game

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Lowell goes on offensive in win against Rays


The third baseman doubles and drives in three runs.

By Brian Biggane


Palm Beach Post Staff Writer


Saturday, May 21, 2005


MIAMI GARDENS ? Marlins manager Jack McKeon still believes in Mike Lowell. And Lowell rewarded that faith Friday night.


After seeing his average fall to a sickly .180 after going 1-for-12 on the Marlins' recent six-game road trip, Lowell ripped a double and a single for a season-high three RBI, leading Florida to a 7-6 victory over Tampa Bay in front of a Cuban Heritage Night crowd of 20,284 at Dolphins Stadium.


Lowell was also a difference-maker defensively, starting a double play when he stabbed a line drive in the fifth inning and saving at least one run with a diving grab of another shot down the left-field line in the sixth.


The win pushed the Marlins into first place in the National League East, one-half game ahead of Atlanta, which dropped a 4-3 decision at Boston. McKeon was talking before the game about how he still had confidence in Lowell, a career .277 hitter who played in his first All-Star Game last season.


"We know he's going to help us; it's just a matter of time before he puts it together," McKeon said. "We need him and we know he'll deliver for us before long."


It took less than one inning for Lowell to prove McKeon prophetic. After a pair of walks and Miguel Cabrera's single to left loaded the bases, Lowell delivered a line-drive single down the left-field line to score two runs.


After flying out to the warning track in the third inning, Lowell followed a leadoff double by Juan Encarnacion in the fifth with a double of his own, bringing in another run. That double proved to be the game-winner.


"I saw the ball well today," Lowell said. "I had consistent at-bats. Baby steps. I just want to have one good at-bat, and if I do, go to the next one. And if I don't, go to the next one.


"It's a great situation to be in ? runners in scoring position, those are the situations I like. So I'm glad I came through."


Al Leiter also came through, coming up with his first home win of the season to improve his record to 2-4, but it was a struggle. Leiter threw 107 pitches in just five innings and gave up four runs, including a two-run homer to Damon Hollins in the second that tied the score at 2.


"I knew (pitcher Hideo) Nomo was on deck, but I thought I could get some (curveballs) in," Leiter said. "I didn't want to walk him, but I didn't think he'd hit a home run. Boy oh boy. So that was upsetting; you get a 2-0 lead and then give it right back."


The Marlins took a 6-3 lead by scoring three times in the fourth, the key hits being Paul Lo Duca's two-run double followed by Miguel Cabrera's run-scoring single.


Lowell admitted he was helped by circumstances in the Devil Rays' fifth, when he started moving toward the bag only to have Eduardo Perez' liner come right to him to start the double play. But there was no luck involved on his play in the sixth when, with runners on first and second, he went to full extension to spear a drive just inside the line.


"I will take credit for (that) one," he smiled.


The teams combined for 25 hits, 13 of them by Tampa Bay. Lowell, Cabrera and Juan Pierre each had two hits for the Marlins, though Pierre was thrown out attempting to steal both times by catcher Toby Hall. Aubrey Huff and Hall each had three hits for the Devil Rays.


Logan Kensing, called up earlier this week from Class AA Carolina, teamed with Jim Mecir and closer Doug Jones to hold the Devil Rays to two runs over the final four innings.


"This is one for the good guys," Leiter said. "It certainly was a team win."



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