Nathaniel Lowe has rocketed through the Rays organization this season. On Wednesday night, he showcased his talents at yet another level.
Tampa Bay's No. 12 prospect knocked three hits and scored a career-high four runs in his International League debut as Triple-A Durham rolled over Columbus, 17-2, at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
Gameday box score
"It was really fun, getting to go out there against a higher level of competition," Lowe said. "Those guys are not here on accident. The pitchers are guys who are big league quality who the clubs maybe don't have room for or just aren't quite ready. To get three knocks out of this game, it was a pretty good start and great for my confidence to finish off the year here."
After knocking a pair of hits and scoring twice Monday at Double-A Pensacola, the first baseman exited the game in the sixth when Montgomery bench coach Gary Redus broke the news of his promotion. Lowe packed quickly and drove halfway to Durham on Tuesday, squeezing in a round of golf at The Frog Golf Course outside Atlanta. He arrived Wednesday around 1 p.m. ET and managed to pick up right where he left off with the Biscuits.
Lowe delivered a two-out RBI double to left field in the first inning that scored Andrew Velazquez. He crossed the plate three batters later on Micah Johnson's grounder to shortstop as the Bulls grabbed a 4-0 lead.
"That first time up, I was just try to hit it hard with my first swing, and I really didn't make great contact," he said. "But the ball carried better than I expected. After that, I connected on a breaking ball and a changeup, which was an exciting way to start.
"I want to put up power numbers at this level. I'm going to hit singles and see the ball well and work counts, but knowing that I can drive the ball off the best Minor League pitchers will be a big confidence boost heading toward the offseason and into Spring Training."
Lowe was plunked by reliever Luke Eubank in the second and ended up scoring again when Johnson lined a single to right. With Durham leading, 7-1, the Mississippi State product led off an eight-run fourth with a line-drive single to center and scored on a two-out double to right by Adam Moore. Lowe's third hit came later in the frame, he roped another single to center before Nick Ciuffo plated him with a knock to center.
The big night was quite a treat for his debut, Lowe said.
"It was exciting because these guys are older and more mature players," he said. "Watching everyone do their thing that inning, we really fed off each other. We had five doubles in a row until I broke the streak."
After grounding out in the sixth, Lowe struck out in the eighth.
The 23-year-old returned to Class A Advanced Charlotte to begin the season and batted .356/.432/.588 with 10 homers in 51 games in his second Florida State League stint. He said his assignment this spring helped spurn his breakout season because he realized nothing was going to be handed to him.
"I think I would have felt pushed along a bit, like I cheated out of high-A because I didn't feel like I did anything to deserve it last year," Lowe said. "It was an OK season, but nothing to hang my hat on. I made it my goal this offseason to put pressure on them to keep me moving as long as I keep playing well. With them sending me the the Futures Game, it shows they value me, and that's great."
After a promotion to Double-A Montgomery on June 7, he continued to rake, belting 13 homers while hitting .342 in 50 games in the Southern League.
Austin Meadows went 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles, three RBIs and three runs scored for Durham, which totaled a season-high 21 hits. Kean Wong also collected three hits, scoring twice and driving in two runs, while Velazquez was 3-for-5 with two doubles and three runs.
Bulls starter Ryan Weber (7-4) yielded one run on one hit over five innings. He struck out four and walked one.