Kiermaier’s glove golden in win over Blue Jays

by Gary Shelton on August 25, 2017 · 0 comments

in general

Kiermaier made two highlight catches in the fifth inning./JEFFREY S. KING

Kiermaier made two highlight catches in the fifth inning./JEFFREY S. KING

Kiermaier looked like a gold-glove winner./JEFFREY S. KING

Kiermaier looked like a gold-glove winner./JEFFREY S. KING

Friday, 3 a.m.

In baseball, can a centerfielder earn a save?

And if not, why not?

With apologies to the Rays’ bullpen, which was very good once again in a 2-0 victory over Toronto, it was centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier who stole the game — and a couple of hits — on Thursday afternoon. In an inning’s worth of defensive work, Kiermaier made one catch that was improbable and one that was impossible … and you can debate which was which.

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Dickerson's homer in the eighth doubled the Rays' lead./JEFFREY S. KING

Dickerson’s homer in the eighth doubled the Rays’ lead./JEFFREY S. KING

In the fifth inning, Kiermaier ran down a fly ball in the right-centerfield gap off the bat of Steve Pearce with two runners on base to preserve a 1-0 lead. After a walk loaded the bases, Kiermaier did it again, rushing in and leaving his feet to catch a ball off the bat of Justin Smoak.

The plays continued to highlight Kiermaier’s stellar play since he returned from the disabled list.

#54 Romo Sergio takes the mound (1 of 1)

Sergio Romo worked his way through the heart of the Jays’ order./JEFFREY S. KING

“Nothing KK does defensively surprises us,” said Rays’ manager Kevin Cash. “We’ve seen it for multiple years now. The ball that he ran down in the gap, from my view, I was pretty confident he was going to catch it. The ball that Smoak hit, I knew where he was positioned, where he was starting from. There are not many people in baseball who get to that ball and make a play on it.”

Kiermaier said he was fortunate to catch Smoak’s ball.

“I feel like the degree difficulty was up there for both of them, but I made the second one a lot more difficult than what it should have been,” Kiermaier said. “I broke back for whatever reason, I thought (Justin) Smoak hit that better. He’s having a great year. He’s hitting the ball hard. My instincts took that into the equation. I knew once I messed up I had to catch it. Thankfully, I timed my leap there to make the tough catch right there. Those are not easy by any means. All that matters is that it went in the glove.

“That’s what it did on both of them. Saved some crucial runs and decided D-Rob’s

Sucre had two hits for the Rays./JEFFREY S. KING

Sucre had two hits for the Rays./JEFFREY S. KING

sacrifice fly in the second was the game winner. Any time you can take away hits like that, especially when you score runs like a game like this, where runs are limited. Huge. It was quite crazy. As long as we are on the better side of everything, we’ll take it. As for me making two diving catches, I’ll do that any day. That’s why it can be a game of inches. Right there, we need every centimeter, every millimeter possible.”

Kiermaier even impressed Toronto manager John Gibbons: Kiermaier…unbelievable. The first one and then of course to come in and get Smoak’s ball the last time. That’s what he does. (Kevin) Pillar, we get the same stuff out of those guys. They win you games.

But Kiermaier wasn’t the only Rays’ player who held down the Blue Jays. After Alex Cobb – just off the disabled list — went 4 1/3 inning of shutout ball, the Rays then looked to their bullpen to shut down Toronto the rest of the way. Steve Cishek threw

Longoria had two hits for the Rays./JEFFREY S. KING

Longoria had two hits for the Rays./JEFFREY S. KING

2/3 of an inning to get the win, and was followed by Brad Boxberger, who got out five outs, and Sergio Romo, who got four. Alex Colome then finished the game with his major-league leading 38th saves.

In their combined 4 2/3 innings, the bullpen threw a two-hitter and allowed no runs.

The work of Romo was particularly impressive, as he went through the heart of the Toronto lineup, retiring Pearce, Josh Donaldson, Smoak and Jose Bautista.

“It’s just extremely gratifying just to have a spot at the table,” Romo said. “The fact that this team has showed me an incredible amount of faith and confidence in me. They gave me an opportunity to be myself on and off the field. I’m able to just be happy and share that happiness. Getting an opportunity to pitch in situations like today, it’s one of those things where we work so hard. We want to be in situations. We’re not the man, no, but we want to be the guy that contributes in tough situations like that. I want to contribute. I want to complement. I want to complement the efforts.

Said Cash: “The expectations are that the front office went and did some good things in adding guys to help out the bullpen and they’ve done that. Now they’ve proven to everybody that if we can get them a lead, more times than not we are going to find a way to be successful with that group down there. Today we asked a lot of them and there were some different faces and names in different roles, but they still came through in a big way.”

Cobb threw 94 pitches in getting his 13 outs.

Cobb went only 4 1/3 innings, but allowed no runs./JEFFREY S. KING

Cobb went only 4 1/3 innings, but allowed no runs./JEFFREY S. KING

“I felt probably the best I’ve felt in a long time, just with overall health and liveliness of the way the ball was coming out of my hand,” Cobb said. “It was unfortunate because I wasn’t really able to control that in the zone. Took a lot of deep counts. I know there was only the one walk, but I don’t know how many 3-2 counts there were but it definitely felt like every batter it was just about as many balls I could throw to them, I did. Fortunately when I did get into those counts I was able to execute the pitches and get them out.

“I’ll take it for the first time back. Like I said, I was going to feel a little bit rusty, but that was just not a good recipe for team success going down the road. Thankfully we had some good performances from the entire bullpen, it seemed like and hopefully we’ll have some big outings from the starters down the stretch these next few games to give them a little bit of a breather.”

Tampa Bay had only five hits, two each by Evan Longoria and Jesus Sucre. Corey Dickerson added an eighth-inning home run. Dickerson had also scored in the second on a sacrifice fly by Daniel Robertson.

The Rays now travel to St. Louis to face the Cardinals. Jake Odorizzi pitches for Tampa Bay against Michael Wacha at 8:15 p.m.

Cichek got the win for the Rays in relief./JEFFREY S. KING

Cishek got the win for the Rays in relief./JEFFREY S. KING



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