Left-handed-hitting slugger hits 34th homer during win over White Sox
By Fabian Ardaya
CHICAGO -- Logan Morrison flailed at the first Reynaldo Lopez changeup he swung at Friday evening. He certainly didn't miss another one later in the at-bat.
Morrison saw Lopez's 83.7-mph changeup stay over the middle of the plate, and he turned on it for his fifth homer in as many games. That was all the offense the Rays would need for their 3-1 win at Guaranteed Rate Field over the White Sox, as they kept pace in the crowded American League Wild Card race.
"I swung at one down in the zone earlier in the at-bat," Morrison said. "He went fastball away off the plate, and then came back to the changeup. It was something I saw pretty well and was able to get the barrel to it and get enough on it to hit it out."
The first baseman, who finished 3-for-4 with three RBIs, took the White Sox prospect's best pitch Friday night and drove it 407 feet with an exit velocity of 103.1 mph, according to Statcast™. It was Morrison's 22nd homer of 400 feet or more this season, which tied him with Mark Reynolds for the fourth-most in baseball per Statcast™. His three hits continued his recent hot streak during the first seven games of a critical road trip for Tampa Bay, during which he's 12-for-25 (.480).
"I hope he stays hot, because he's seeing the ball really well right now," Rays manager Kevin Cash said.
While the calendar turning to September for a club in the thick of a playoff race, Morrison has found himself succeeding by staying calm.
"I just feel more relaxed," Morrison said. "I think that's helping me not only see the ball but stay behind the ball. When you stay behind the ball, good things happen."
Morrison's recent tear only builds on what has been a career year for him at 29 years old. He's now launched 34 homers, 11 more than his previous career-high, including 25 on the road, which leads the American League and smashed Carlos Pena's previous franchise record. He's now six homers away from his first 40-homer season, and the first for a Rays player since Pena in 2007.
The career season for Morrison, who signed a one-year, $2.5 million deal with the Rays this offseason, has helped keep Tampa Bay in the Wild Card race. Friday's win moved the Rays back to .500, and it matched their 2016 win total -- 68.
Morrison, who has played for three clubs over his eight seasons in the Majors, has never made the postseason. His closest trip -- in 2014 with the Mariners, where Seattle finished just one game behind Oakland for the second Wild Card spot -- still lingers in his mind.
"Let's keep it going," Morrison said. "In '14, we played the 'what if' game at the end of the year, and we were out of the playoffs by one game. Any game we can get is one game closer to where we need to be, and I hope everybody's on that same page."
Cash noted Morrison has added leadership to the Rays with his voice in the dugout and play on the field. He's just hoping it sticks during the stretch run.
"Yeah, he's loud," Cash said. "Hopefully his bat just continues to be as loud as his mouth."
Fabian Ardaya is a reporter for MLB.com based in Chicago who covered the Rays on Friday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.