ARLINGTON, Texas — Playing regularly in left field while getting used to the American League, Tampa Bay’s Corey Dickerson is settling into one of the best stretches of his career.
Dickerson had a three-run homer off Colby Lewis in the Texas right-hander’s last start before the playoffs, and the Rays beat the Rangers 4-1 Saturday night.
The third-inning shot was Dickerson’s 24th, matching his career high from his first full season with Colorado in 2014. The 27-year-old was traded to the Rays in the offseason after an injury-plagued year that affected his preparation for 2016 as well.
Dickerson was on the disabled list three times in his final season with the Rockies, twice with foot injuries and once for broken ribs. Worried about limited offseason training, his averaged bottomed out at .176 in mid-May.
But he’s hitting .341 since Sept. 6 and has his average at .248, its highest since April. He has 70 RBIs, six shy of his 2014 total with the Rockies.
“I finally felt like I kind of hit rock bottom where I had to just let it go, have fun,” Dickerson said. “Really just try to be myself, try to be me and know what I do works. That’s what got me here, and that’s what had me have good years.”
Dickerson made 24 of his past 30 starts in left field, and he says that has made it easier in games when he is the DH. Manager Kevin Cash agreed.
“I think he has a better understanding of the pitching staffs that we’re facing,” Cash said. “We’ve played a lot of American League East September baseball. So, he saw those guys again and he’s kind of put that in the memory bank.”
Rays right-hander Jake Odorizzi (10-6) struck out eight in six innings, giving up the only run on Robinson Chirinos’ eighth homer in the sixth. He has 10 wins for the second time in his career.
“It’s a cool thing to have double-digit wins,” he said. “Took the last game of the year to get it, but 10 wins is definitely very, very nice.”
Alex Colome pitched around Dickerson’s dropped fly ball leading off the ninth for his 37th save. Dickerson made two of the catches in the ninth, with the crowd shouting as the ball approached his glove both times.
“It rolled out of my glove,” Dickerson said. “I caught it. Used two hands. The spin of the ball just popped it out. That had never happened to me before.”
Odorizzi is undefeated in his last seven road starts. He is 4-0 with a 1.42 ERA in five career starts against the Rangers. … Dickerson has six homers with two or more runners on, the most for the Rays since Evan Longoria had seven in 2011.
Rays: Kiermaier came out of the game with a left calf contusion after pulling up while sprinting toward Chirinos’ homer in the gap in right center.
Rays: RHP Chase Whitley (0-0, 1.74 ERA) is set for his first big-league start since May 14, 2015, before he had elbow surgery. That start was for the Yankees against the Rays.