TAMPA --One day after committing a baserunning blunder that killed the Rays' late-inning momentum, Kevin Kiermaier made plays in the field and at the plate that led to a Tampa Bay win in the Rays' 8-1 victory over the Dodgers Wednesday night.
Kiermaier's first outfield assist of the year was an important one. In the sixth inning of a tied game, Kiermaier prevented the go-ahead run from scoring, throwing Cody Bellinger out at the plate following Russell Martin's two-out single to center.
On the play, Kiermaier charges Martin's hit and corrals it on one hops and rifles a throw that reaches catcher Travis d'Arnaud at home plate on one hop well before Bellinger slides into home.
Kiermaier said getting a high hop off the Tropicana Field turf allowed him to catch the ball and throw in a fluid motion.
“That was a play where as a player you get a feeling that the ball is going to be hit to you and I had a feeling that Russell was going to hit it to me and thankfully it wasn’t one that I had to go all the way to the ground," Kiermaier said. "It was a nice hop where I didn’t have to bend over too far and I gripped the four seam right away, so I liked my chances. I knew once I threw it that it was accurate. But that play doesn’t happen if Travis d’Arnaud doesn’t make a great pick on the short hop.”
The left-handed hitting Kiermaier then capped a seven-run seventh by hitting a three-run homer off Dodgers left-hander Caleb Ferguson, hitting a first-pitch fastball over the left-center field fence. The homer was his fourth of the season and his first against a lefty.
"Ferguson, he's a lefty, he throws 95-96," Kiermaier said. "I was just hoping I got a pitch over the plate. I did. I put a good swing on it, back spin on it, that's all I got to center."
It was Kiermaier’s first homer off a left-hander in nearly 11 months. He last homered against a southpaw last June 26 against the Nationals off Gio Gonzalez. Just 11 of Kiermaier’s 58 career homers have come against lefties.
"I always tell people it feels more special off a lefty," Kiermaier said. "I haven't seen it a whole lot lately, so it always feels good to get one off them. At bats like that will keep it tougher for them to keep me out of the lineup. Right there to have a blast off a good, hard throwing lefty made it that much more special to me."
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at email@example.com. Follow @EddieInTheYard.