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Rays keep the thrills alive against Seattle with another walkoff victory

Kevin Kiermaier leads off the ninth with a tying homer and Tampa Bay wins 7-6 on a wild pitch after blowing a two-run lead in the top of half of the inning.
Kevin Kiermaier hugs teammate Mike Brosseau after the Rays' walkoff win Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019, against the Mariners. Kiermaier hit a tying home run to lead off the bottom of the ninth. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times] [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
Kevin Kiermaier hugs teammate Mike Brosseau after the Rays' walkoff win Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019, against the Mariners. Kiermaier hit a tying home run to lead off the bottom of the ninth. [DIRK SHADD | Times] [DIRK SHADD | Tampa Bay Times]
Published Aug. 22, 2019
Updated Aug. 22, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG — By the time the slumping Rays centerfielder came to the plate in the ninth inning, doom seemed to have settled in quite comfortably at Tropicana Field.

It would be a terrible homestand punctuated by a horrible finale. The Rays would be taking another step backward in the AL wild-card race and doubt would continue to wedge its way into every conversation.

Sound about right? Not to Kevin Kier­maier.

“We’re not stopping until that last out is made,’’ he said.

Two pitches later, Kiermaier was in an 0-2 count against the Mariners’ Matt Magill. He took a close pitch for ball one. Then ball two. Then ball three. Then he barely fouled off a pitch.

“I knew he was going to throw me a heater because he doesn’t want to walk me,’’ Kiermaier said. “I knew I would get a fastball to hit, and I didn’t miss it.’’

Kiermaier hit a 432-foot home run to dead center to tie the score, and the Rays got a 7-6 walkoff victory a few batters later on a bases-loaded wild pitch before an announced crowd of 7,827. It was Tampa Bay’s third walkoff victory in five days, and it was the only way they could salvage a .500 homestand against a pair of downtrodden teams.

“We’ve got to be resilient now,’’ manager Kevin Cash said. “If we’re going to get down, we have to find a way to get back up.’’

Willy Adames (1), left, celebrates his game-winning run on a wild pitch from Seattle reliever Matt Magill to give the Rays a 6-5 win at Tropicana Field on Wednesday. [DIRK SHADD | Tampa Bay Times]


The Rays (74-54) guaranteed they would keep pace with Oakland for the second wild card. They also moved within a half-game of Cleveland for the top spot after the Indians lost 4-3 in 10 innings to the Mets.

It shouldn’t have been this difficult. Not the homestand and not the game.

The Rays arrived home on a roll, 12 wins in 15 games, but stumped against the Tigers and nearly gagged against the Mariners, both teams in last place in their divisions.

Charlie Morton gave the Rays a chance to win Wednesday with five decent innings, and the bullpen did its job for three innings until closer Emilio Pagan took over in the ninth with a 5-3 lead.

Pagan immediately gave up a home run to Daniel Vogelbach and later lost the lead on a two-run triple by former Rays outfielder Mallex Smith.

That put Kiermaier at the plate to lead off the bottom of the ninth. The centerfielder had broken an 0-for-19 slump on Tuesday and was just beginning to get his confidence back.

Tampa Bay Rays Kevin Kiermaier (39) starts the come back off with a solo tome run in the ninth inning at Tropicana Field on Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019 in St. Petersburg. [DIRK SHADD | Tampa Bay Times]

"I had a really, really rough week personally ever since we got to San Diego,’’ he said. “Anytime I hit the ball hard, it was right at guys, and every other time was weak contact or strikeouts. I’m a much better player when I play with confidence, and I lost it there for 5-6 games, and it showed.’’

Willy Adames followed the homer with a single, Mike Brosseau doubled and Ji-Man Choi was intentionally walked before Magill threw a wild pitch on a 1-2 count to Tommy Pham.

“We are in contention to be in the playoffs with a little more than a month to go, and the guys want to win,’’ Morton said. “That’s what happened today. They willed it to happen.’’

Contact John Romano at jromano@tampabay.com. Follow @romano_tbtimes.

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