Souza's 2-HR game snaps slugger from slump

Souza's 2-HR game snaps slugger from slump

ST. PETERSBURG -- Steven Souza Jr. got the breakout game he so desperately needed Wednesday night.

The Rays' slugger hit two homers and drove in three to lead his team to a 5-2 win over the Angels at Tropicana Field.

Souza hit .330 with four home runs and 17 RBIs in April, but has struggled of late. He entered the game in the midst of an 8-for-67 slump with just three extra-base hits and six RBIs in 20 games.

"One of my goals coming into this season was to be consistent," Souza said. "Obviously, the first month was better."

Souza's outlook changed in the second inning.

Souza Jr.'s second homer

Logan Morrison walked to lead off the frame. Angels starter Ricky Nolasco then struck out Tim Beckham and Colby Rasmus, bringing Souza to the plate. The Rays slugger connected on an 0-1 Nolasco pitch, producing a 423-foot barreled ball that cleared the center-field wall.

"The last couple of weeks have been a little rough, but I'm just trying to put it past me, and get back to being aggressive and being a threat at the plate," Souza said.

Souza's sixth home run of the season had a 103.3-mph exit velocity with a 31-degree launch angle, according to Statcast™.

"In his first at-bat, he was ready to hit the fastball," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "I think he swung at a breaking ball, but was out in front of it, and stayed committed to the fastball, and hit it a long way. That pitch appeared to be an inch or two off the plate, so it shows that he can cover pitches."

Added Souza: "I honestly was just trying to get a good pitch to hit, whatever it was, and barrel it up. Really just try and be in control of the at-bat, get in some good counts and do some damage."

Appearing untethered from his recent struggles, Souza again found the seats in the seventh.

With the Rays clinging to a one-run lead, Rasmus led off the seventh with his fifth home run of the season, a barreled ball to right that traveled an estimated 391 feet and had an exit velocity of 108.2 mph. Souza followed with his second homer of the game, a 403-foot barreled ball to left that had an exit velocity of 104.5 mph, and a 25-degree launch angle. The home runs gave the Rays a three-run cushion heading into the game's final two innings.

"If you can get your good pitch to hit, and not be tense when you're trying to do it ... you're going to be able to do damage a lot more times," Souza said. "And these last couple of weeks, I've just felt like I was too tight, too tense, and trying to do too much. ... Today, I just kind of let it go and got some good ones."

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.