Jeff Keppinger has been turning heads this month as his offensive skills have helped power the Rays during a strong September rally. Yesterday, Rays’ manager Joe Maddon told MLB.com, “Keppinger has been among the more consistent players at the plate for Tampa Bay.” Maddon went on to say, “This guy hits everybody. He has a great approach, he doesn’t expand the strike zone, he just knows what he’s doing at the plate.” During Sunday’s game, TBS announcers’ praised Keppinger’s batting success, highlighting Maddon’s use of the word “consistent” in their conversation with the skipper about Keppinger before the game. With all of this attention placed on his performance this month, it brings up the question, how does Jeff Keppinger display consistency?
Keppinger leads the team in hits for the past month, with 32 hits in 100 at bats. He uses his plate discipline to come up big for his team at key moments. This was seen last night as Keppinger’s only hit against Baltimore occurred during the eighth inning when the score was tied 1-1. With Evan Longoria on first base, Keppinger singled to right field, allowing Longoria to advance to third. Ben Francisco batted in Longoria in the following play, putting Tampa Bay ahead. Rich Thompson was put in as a pinch runner for Keppinger and scored off of Chris Gimenez’s double later in the inning.
In the past week, Keppinger has eight hits, five runs, and five RBIs in 25 at bats. His numbers are close to Ben Zobrists’, another player whose bat has supported the Rays’ success this month. In the last seven days, Zobrist totals ten hits, six runs, and three RBIs in only two more at bats than Keppinger.
While his bat garners him the most recognition, Keppinger’s defensive skills as a utility player give him added value. Although he usually plays at second base, Keppinger has been filling in at first base the past three nights, since first baseman Carlos Pena’s hitting has been lacking. At the beginning of September, Keppinger also played an influential role by manning third base, allowing regular third baseman Evan Longoria to rest his legs but serve as designated hitter.
With two nights left of the regular season, Keppinger will remain an impactful player during the remainder of the Rays series against Baltimore. Keppinger has ten hits in eight starts against Baltimore prior to Monday night’s game.