10-foot wall is no match for Kiermaier

September 14th, 2021

pulled off an unforgettable play on an otherwise forgettable night for the Rays, leaping to make a catch at the top of the 10-foot-high outfield wall Monday night at Rogers Centre in Toronto.

The Rays were trailing by eight in the seventh inning of their eventual 8-1 loss to the scorching Blue Jays when Lourdes Gurriel Jr. blasted a 104 mph fly ball to deep center field. Kiermaier drifted back toward the wall, measured its trajectory and perfectly timed his jump to rob Gurriel of extra bases, if not a home run.

Kiermaier tumbled to the warning track, reclined on his right elbow and held up his glove, showing the ball he’d snagged to grateful reliever Nick Anderson, who raised both arms in appreciation on the mound.

“I was just trying to time it up and give myself a chance, and he hit it at a perfect spot where it let me kind of catch it at its highest point,” Kiermaier said. “That's all I had in the tank right there, and I was happy to see it go in the glove right there.

“But just kind of how the game was, probably the least exciting home run robbery that I'll ever make.”

Indeed, the Platinum Glove Award winner’s latest highlight-reel play did not lessen any of the frustration Tampa Bay felt after such a lopsided loss against a hard-charging Toronto team. But it was, as manager Kevin Cash said, an “awesome” play nonetheless.

Gurriel was in pursuit of his fourth hit of the game on a night the Jays out-hit the Rays, 17-2. He couldn’t have made much better contact, with the ball he launched out to center field carrying an expected batting average of .840, according to Statcast. Gurriel seemed to think it was gone, too, walking slowly out of the batter’s box after making contact.

That allowed for an easier return to the mound for Anderson, the high-leverage reliever making his season debut after spending all spring and summer working his way back from a right elbow injury.

“Happy to make the play for Ando right there. It was great seeing him back on the mound again,” Kiermaier said. “We need him down the stretch. He's been so great for us ever since he came over, so I was happy to make that play for him, especially, and hopefully remind him that I'm trying to make plays out there for our guys anytime, no matter what the score is.”