Tampa Bay Rays 129: Only Kevin Kiermaier Can Solve Royals

By Robbie Knopf

Kevin Kiermaier is an incredibly good baseball player. To update a piece from a month ago, Baseball-Reference considered Kiermaier to be worth 5.7 WAR entering Saturday’s game, making him the 5th-best position player in the American League and 7th-best player overall. His body of work this season has been incredibly impressive, and the way he is hitting right now has only emphasized that further.

Kiermaier began the day hitting to a .321/.352/.417 line in August with a 10-4 strikeout to walk ratio that was easily his best of any month this season. He has been dealing with a thumb injury, but the injury has apparently forced him to shorten his swing, and that has been a great thing on the whole. This game might have been the best example yet as Kiermaier went 2 for 4 with a two-run homer that put the Tampa Bay Rays ahead 3-2 along with his 16th stolen base of the season.

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Unfortunately, Kiermaier was one of the few highlights in this game for the Rays. Jake Odorizzi had a rough start, giving up 4 runs on 7 hits in 4.2 innings, striking out 5 while walking 2. He had difficulty commanding his fastball up in the zone, and everything fell apart from there. One minor highlight was the fourth inning. He had already given up two runs and the Royals had runners on second and third with nobody out when Odorizzi prevented anyone else from scoring in the inning. A big help was Kiermaier once again as the Royals didn’t want to run on his strong arm. It was nice to see Odorizzi showing improved composure, but we have to bear in mind that he proceeded to let in two more in the next frame.

The bullpen was then good but nothing special behind Odorizzi, allowing 2 runs, 1 earned in 4.1 innings. To be fair, all of the pitchers had to deal with a defensive collapse as Asdrubal Cabrera made two errors while Daniel Nava committed one. Enny Romero looked good once again as he gave up 1 run on 3 hits in 2.2 innings, striking out 2. It would have been nice if he could have finished the game without the help of Brandon Gomes, but let me just remind you that 1 run in 2.2 innings amounts to a fine (if not spectacular) 3.37 ERA.

For once, the Rays weren’t a train wreck with runners on base, but mostly because the Kansas City Royals didn’t give them many opportunities. They went 1 for 4 with runners in scoring position and left 6 runners on. Aside from Kiermaier, John Jaso went 1 for 3 with a double, a walk, and a run, Cabrera went 1 for 3 with a walk, an RBI, and a run, and J.P. Arencibia recorded his first hit with the Rays, a single. Unfortunately, you have now heard about all 5 Rays hits.

The 2015 is slipping away from the Tampa Bay Rays, and while time isn’t out yet, they have to find a way to go on some type of run. They will hope for a lift from Nate Karns tomorrow at 1:10 PM as he opposes Danny Duffy.

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