ST. PETERSBURG – A season CF Kevin Kiermaier already had referred to as the worst of his career came to a premature end in Wednesday's wild 8-7 win over the Yankees when he sustained a hairline fracture in his right foot, the latest in a long string of injuries.
Kiermaier was hit on the foot by an 84.3 mph slider from Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka in the first inning, the sound audible and his reaction clearly painful as he went to his knees, though he stayed in the game for two more innings, making a long run on the turf to catch a Brett Gardner drive to end the second.
"It didn't feel good from the start," Kiermaier said. "I hate coming out of games and I wanted to try and tough it out."
H gave in to the pain after the third, expecting the diagnosis to be a bruise but X-rays showed a hairline fracture in a small bone on the side of the foot.
"It's just an unfortunate way for me to end the season but that's kind of my 2018 in a nutshell," Kiermaier said "I feel like everything that could've went wrong for me did."
Kiermaier spent two months of the disabled list after tearing a ligament in his right thumb in mid-April. He also missed time due to back tightness, a previous right-foot issue stemming from a foul ball, illness and, most recently, a sore left shoulder from running into the outfield wall.
Playing in 88 of the Rays' 158 games, Kiermaier hit .217 with seven homers, 29 RBIs and a .652 OPS.
"I just want to let everyone know that I wasn't the player that I know I could have been this, obviously the worst of my career dating back my whole life, ever since I was born," he said. "I take my job and what I do very seriously. But it seems like every ball I hit hard this year was an out. Every diving play that could have been made was made on me. And of course an 84 mph slider breaks a bone in my foot."
Kiermaier did note that he remained positive through the "treacherous" year and given the team's play, fun attitude and success it also was "the most enjoyable year" of his career.
"I'm going to work my butt off this off-season to get back to the old Kevin Kiermaier," he said, joking that was now launching his campaign for the 2019 Comeback Player of the Year award.
Rays 3B Matt Duffy left the game after the first inning with right quad tightness that he said had been bothering him for several days. Duffy said he isn't ruling out returning this weekend but is going to be cautious.
Rays survive late Yankees rally
After a messy first inning in which each team scored three runs, the Rays went ahead to stay on a third-inning homer by red-hot OF Tommy Pham and built the lead to 8-3 in the eighth, then had to hang on for the 8-7 win.
The Yankees roared back with four runs in the ninth off RHP Sergio Romo and had the go-ahead run on base before Romo got the final two outs.
"I know Sergio had a hiccup there, but give him some credit for not losing his composure and making two really big pitches to get out of that jam," manager Kevin Cash said. "At that point Sergio's got to find a way to get through that, and ultimately he did."
The Yankees loaded the bases, then got one run on an Aaron Judge single, two on a Luke Voit single on a smash that CF Mallex Smith tried to catch at the wall, then another on an infield single.
"I'm pretty sure it ticked off my glove," Smith said. "Just missed it."
The homer was Pham's 21st of the season between the Rays and the Cardinals and extended his career-best on-base streak to 28 games, the longest current such run in the majors.
The victory was the Rays' 88th of the season, needing to win two of their remaining four games to get to 90. It evened the season series with the Yankees 9-9, heading into Thursday's matinee finale.
"We needed every run," Smith said. "That team don't give up, and neither do we. That was just a game where you saw it happen on both sides."
RHP Ryne Stanek, who had done so well as the primary opener getting the first 3-6 outs, instead put the Rays in a hole, allowing a leadoff single, a two-out walk and a three-run homer to Neil Walker. But the Rays got it all back on three hits, a walk, a hit batter and a throwing error by Yankees starter Tanaka.
"Those guys are certainly playing for a lot right now with the homefield advantage (in the AL wild-card game), and I like the way we came out and played," Cash said. "We showed that we were playing for a lot to get down 3-0 and get right back in against Tanaka, a really good pitcher, shows a lot."
RHP Yonny Chirinos got the win for four innings of relief, including a big double play ball he got from Giancarlo Stanton. "Yonny is gaining some invaluable experience, especially in this atmosphere," Cash said.
Romo notched his 24th save, the first pitcher in Rays history to get a save after allowing four or more runs, and the first in the majors to do so in an outing of 1 1/3 innings or less since Seattle's Mike Timlin in 1998.
Goodbye to a guru
After 18 years of shaping, guiding and coaching pitchers throughout all levels of the Rays organization, former big-leaguer Dick Bosman is retiring. Bosman, 74, joined the Rays in 2001, having served previously as the pitching coach for the Orioles and Rangers, and pitching parts of 11 seasons in the majors, leading the American League with a 2.19 ERA in 1969 and throwing a no-hitter for the Indians in 1974.
"It's time,'' Bosman said. "It was with a great deal of satisfaction that I announced my retirement. We did some great things with Tampa Bay, things that will stand the test of time.''
Bosman was known, among other things, for teaching pitchers how to control the running game and took great pride in that aspect of the game. Among many pitchers he had a hand in developing were James Shields, Wade Davis, Jake McGee, Jeremy Hellickson, Alex Cobb and prospect Brent Honeywell.
Bosman plans to spend time traveling with his wife and playing golf, which he was doing Wednesday. He said he'll likely take the Rays up on the offer of a first pitch next spring. "Emotionally by then I could probably do it.''
Making his pitch
Longtime Clearwater Central Catholic baseball coach Todd Vaughan has one goal in throwing out the first pitch for Thursday's game: "I just want to hit leather.'' Vaughan is the longest tenured high school coach in Pinellas County, entering his 31st season. He played for CCC's 1979 state championship team and coached the 2002 and 2007 titlists. "It's really more of a tribute to the school and all the teams that we have had here in the past,'' he said.
• RHP Jaime Schultz will take his first turn as a game opener on Thursday, with RHP Austin Pruitt likely to work multiple innings.
* That was the second time the Rays beat the Yankees 8-7; the first was the infamous Game 162 in 2011.
* The game took 3 hours and 52 minutes.
• DH Ji-Man Choi was "fine" after leaving Tuesday's game with a cut on his left ear that required stitches and concussion-like symptoms, with the chance to play Thursday, Cash said.
• RHP Tyler Glasnow will make his final start Friday.
Times staff writer Rodney Page contributed to this report.