Kiermaier slams into wall to make great catch
ST. PETERSBURG -- Meaningless September game, right?
Nobody bothered to tell Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, who added anther amazing catch to his resume in a season that has seen him provide nightly highlights in the field.
"We've seen that all year long," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "K.K. takes a ton of pride in helping our pitchers in every way possible. It's funny, you see the quarterbacks who pay their offensive linemen at the end of the year for protecting them. They ought to be dishing out money to K.K. for all the runs he's saved."
Wednesday night's gem, in the Rays' 6-4 win over the Marlins, came when Derek Dietrich hit a drive to deep center field leading off the seventh. Kiermaier broke into a sprint and headed for the warning track while looking at the ball from over his right shoulder.
But something told him he needed to shift back the other way, so he twisted back to view the ball from over his left shoulder before leaping.
"I knew once I turned I was going to have to take one or two steps then jump from there," Kiermaier said.
He hauled in the ball backhanded then resembled a bug hitting a windshield as he crashed into the padded center-field wall.
"Thankfully I came down with it," Kiermaier said. "I was happy to make that play right there for [pitcher] Brandon [Gomes].
"I knew that I was close [to the wall], anytime you jump like that, it's going to be a lot more graceful coming down into it rather than running into it full speed," Kiermair said.
A long out for Dietrich and yet another gem for Kiermaier.
"Like I said I was just happy to make the catch right there," Kiermaier said. "And Dietrich put a good swing on it. And he's an ex-teammate of mine [in the Rays system] and it feels good to get him back and I'm sure he'll have some words for me tomorrow."
Kiermaier entered the game leading the Major Leagues with 37 Defensive Runs Saved, 15 more than the next-closest AL Player, Toronto's Kevin Pillar (22).
"That ball was crushed," Marlins manager Dan Jennings said. "To be able to drop step and go back to the wall like that and leap, and pull that down. We haven't seen Tampa since early in the year, but we're very familiar with Kiermaier. He's a Gold Glover, and a special, special defender."