Kiermaier's latest snag might be best of 2019

May 27th, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG -- Kevin Kiermaier is no stranger to making extraordinary catches. The Rays center fielder is considered one of the best defenders in the Majors, and his catch on Monday afternoon might have been his best work of the 2019 season.

With the Rays up 1-0 in the fourth inning -- in an eventual 8-3 win over the Blue Jays -- Rowdy Tellez drove a ball at 102 mph to left-center off Tampa Bay starter Yonny Chirinos. Initially, it looked like Tellez hit it well enough that it could be either a double or a home run, but Kiermaier tracked it well off the bat and took a couple of short steps before timing his jump towards the wall and securing the catch.

“I saw the ball hit off the bat, and it just kept going,” Kiermaier said. “As I got closer, as an outfielder, you feel your instincts tell you that the wall is creeping in. And I timed my jump perfectly, caught the ball at its highest point, and I was just happy to see the ball go in the glove right there.”

When Kiermaier completed the catch, outfielders Tommy Pham and Avisail Garcia both ran over to celebrate the grab. Pham extended both of his arms in the air before embracing Kiermaier. After making the play, the center fielder tapped the platinum Rawlings tag on his glove, reminding Pham and everyone else why he’s one of the best in the game. Kiermaier won the Rawlings Platinum Glove Award for the American League in 2015, and he won an AL Gold Glove Award in '15 and '16,

“This is a true story,” Pham said, with a smile. “I said something, I can’t remember [what], and he went to his glove and there’s that platinum there and he’s like, ‘Remember?’ and I was like, ‘Oh, my fault.’ ... It was a great catch.”

Chirinos, who tossed five no-hit innings, waited for Kiermaier by the dugout steps after the inning, with the crowd showing its appreciation by way of a standing ovation.

“That was an excellent catch,” Chirinos said. “I thought the ball was gone, but I was surprised when he went up and caught the ball.”

Kiermaier traveled 85 feet to make the catch and Tellez’s drive had an expecting batting avergage of .720. The star center fielder admitted that it was one of the best catches of his career.

“The crowd reaction was awesome,” Kiermaier said. “Tommy Pham’s reaction was awesome. Avi ran over from right field. It was definitely one of the better plays, I think, throughout my career, and you love doing it in front of your home crowd.”