Stop if you've heard this one already this week: An American League hitter smashes a home run on the same exact date in consecutive postseasons, eerily mimicking his plate performance from previous years. First, Alex Bregman continued his wild trend of smashing dingers every Oct. 5th ... and now the Rays' Kevin Kiermaier is up to the same tricks.
In Wednesday night's ALDS Game 3 against the Yankees at Petco Park, Kiermaier hit a three-run home run in the top of the fourth to put the Rays up by three. They would go on to win, 8-4, to take a 2-1 series lead. It was his second career postseason homer, and first since the three-run shot he hit in last year's ALDS, also in Game 3, also on Oct. 7th.
Which means the only two postseason homers of Kiermaier's career came on the same date, in the same game of the postseason, exactly one year apart. Both games were also started by Charlie Morton, who beat the Astros’ Zack Greinke on last Oct. 7 and out-pitched Masahiro Tanaka this time around.
“I was not aware of that,” Kiermaier said afterwards. “But I’ll take it.”
What was plain to see was Kiermaier’s impact in the victory, which earned him a mention in his own postgame celebratory jingle, an original rap Kiermaier performs in the clubhouse after each win during which he shouts out the game’s top performers. Tanaka was pulled after four-plus innings Wednesday after homers from Randy Arozarena and Kiemaier, who pulled a first-pitch curveball 373 feet to right field after Joey Wendle singled and Willy Adames drew a walk to begin the fourth.
The go-ahead shot broke a 1-1 tie and helped the Rays become the 19th team to win this postseason when out-homering their opponent. Twenty-three of the Rays’ 29 runs this postseason have come via the home run; they’ve hit 12 over their first five postseason games. Twenty-one of those runs have come in the first four innings of their games.
It also continued Kiermaier’s career-long success against Tanaka. He’s now 13-for-41 (.317) with three homers, two doubles and two triples off the Yankees righty, who he’s faced more than all but one other pitcher (Rick Porcello).
“I wanted to swing the bat right there because I knew what I was getting,” Kiermaier said. “I’ve faced Tanaka many times over the years, and he loves throwing that first-pitch breaking ball. I took one in my first at bat, and I was very mad at myself because I didn’t really get anything [to] hit after that and I chased a bunch of pitches and struck out. I couldn’t wait to hit again.”
An inning later, Arozarena became the third player in team history to homer in three straight postseason games. Kiermaier had one of the best reactions in the Rays dugout, throwing up his hands in disbelief as if to say: “Again?”
Call it history repeating itself. Yes, again.
“What he’s doing is incredible,” Kiermaier said. “We should each take a page out of his book. He doesn’t think up there. He’s so raw in every facet of his game and just does it night in night out. I don’t have anything else to describe it.”