Rookie Mahtook keeps tormenting veteran Buehrle

Rookie Mahtook keeps tormenting veteran Buehrle

ST. PETERSBURG -- In no particular order, Mikie Mahtook likes LSU football, gumbo, New Orleans and Mark Buehrle pitching.

Something happens to Mahtook when he sees Buehrle on the mound. At least that's the way it's been for the Rays' rookie outfielder this season. On Friday night he hit a three-run homer off Buehrle that put the Rays up by three runs in their eventual 8-4 loss to the Blue Jays at Tropicana Field.

"I have no idea. It's just one of those things where I guess I see him pretty well," said Mahtook when asked to explain his success against the veteran left-hander. "And he's throwing me some pitches and I was able to get the barrel of the bat too and able to get out in front of it. ... I was fortunate I was able to hit a three-run homer tonight, but I don't know what makes it go."

Mahtook's two-run shot

Mahtook hit his first career Major League home run on April 15 in Toronto -- against Buehrle. On Sunday, Mahtook hit his seventh home run of the season, also against Buehrle. Friday night's homer gave Mahtook eight on the season, and three have come against the southpaw.

Mahtook entered the game with two home runs in three at-bats against Buehrle, including four RBIs. By the time he stepped to the plate for his fourth at-bat against him with two outs in the seventh, Mahtook was 3-for-6 with three home runs and six RBIs.

Toronto manager John Gibbons had seen enough by that point. Rather than have Buehrle face Mahtook with a runner on first and the Blue Jays holding an 8-4 lead, he elected to bring in right-hander Mark Lowe.

Mahtook's first MLB hit is gone

That decision in itself showed how much Gibbons respected Mahtook's work against Buehrle, since the veteran needed two more innings in order to reach 200 for the 15th consecutive season.

Lowe struck out Mahtook swinging.

Mahtook has homered in three straight starts, making him the fifth Rays rookie to accomplish the feat, joining Steven Souza Jr., Kevin Kiermaier, Evan Longoria and Damon Hollins.

"I think Mahtook in the box is just feeling extremely comfortable," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "His swings are extremely aggressive against everybody, not just Buehrle. He's got a lot of confidence up there, and he's looking to impact the ball. Even the at-bats that he doesn't, the intent is there. It's not like going up to the plate and feeling for it.

"A lot of young players do that, get caught in that mode. But he's kind of transitioned himself into being a force up there right now."

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.