Souza, Butler combine for huge weekend in Baltimore

Newcomers team up for 11 hits and four homers during three-game series

Souza, Butler combine for huge weekend in Baltimore

BALTIMORE -- All the reporters in the Rays' locker room wanted to hear about Steven Souza Jr. and Joey Butler following Sunday's 9-5 win over the Orioles.

A year ago, that would not have been possible. The two Tampa Bay newcomers combined for seven hits and three RBIs on Sunday at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Souza hit his third home run in three games, this time off a 3-2 Chris Tillman pitch. After belting a solo home run in each of the first two games of the series, the rookie right fielder hit a three-run home run into the bullpen in left-center field. He now leads the Rays and all American League rookies in home runs with 10.

Souza's three-run homer

"For him to come up and put together a good at-bat, probably not his best timing, he's not playing in there all the time, but impact us that way to give us an early lead was huge," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "Souza's was big. Separates the game a little bit."

Souza, who had just three home runs in his previous 28 games, is the fastest Rays rookie to 10 home runs in a season (46 games), doing so in six fewer games than Elijah Dukes in 2007.

All of this production comes after Souza missed the three-game series against the Mariners at the beginning to the week after suffering a sprained left wrist in last Sunday's 7-2 loss to the A's.

Souza said that during his absence he spent time standing in the batter's box and tracking balls during the Rays' bullpen sessions, which he credits for his ability to jump right back into the lineup without missing a step.

"Just so I could see a heater," Souza said. "You don't see a heater for a while, you get back in, 90 looks like 99. Consistently, just see it out of his hand. Even if you're not swinging, you still got that recognition and that helped me out a lot."

Butler didn't have the power of Souza on Sunday, but he did string together a career-high four hits including two doubles and two singles. Since being called up from Triple-A Durham on May 3, Butler is hitting .342 in 18 starts.

Butler's big day at the plate

"He has a lot of power to right-center," Cash said of Butler. "He has pull-power, but I think he knows that his strength is to stay the other way, up the middle and he is very consistent with it."

Both Souza and Butler provided a nice spark for the Rays, who scored 13 runs in three games against the Orioles after scoring just 10 combined runs during the team's six-game losing streak.

Souza finished the series hitting 5-for-12 with three home runs, five RBIs and three runs scored. Butler picked up six hits in 12 at-bats, also adding a home run in Saturday's game.

Connor Smolensky is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.