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Kiermaier starting to find offensive groove

MLB.com

SEATTLE -- Kevin Kiermaier, known more for his stellar glove in center field, is showing he's no easy out at the plate.

Kiermaier was one of the few bright spots of the Rays' 12-4 loss to the Mariners at Safeco Field on Friday, going 3-for-4 with a double, a home run and two RBIs. His stellar performance is part of a successful 20-game stretch, in which he's hit .338 and six of his seven home runs this season.

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SEATTLE -- Kevin Kiermaier, known more for his stellar glove in center field, is showing he's no easy out at the plate.

Kiermaier was one of the few bright spots of the Rays' 12-4 loss to the Mariners at Safeco Field on Friday, going 3-for-4 with a double, a home run and two RBIs. His stellar performance is part of a successful 20-game stretch, in which he's hit .338 and six of his seven home runs this season.

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"I felt good and I've made adjustments on my own and that's something I've struggled doing early in the season.," Kiermaier said of his recent success at the dish. "I couldn't get comfortable in the batter's box, and today I felt comfortable. And that's half of the battle."

Kiermaier's bat was flat in March/April, producing a slash line of .220/.304/.300. He turned a corner in May, posting .270/.347/.468 averages. His strikeout rate dipped to 22.7 percent from the 28.3 percent clip he posted to start the season and his wRC doubled from nine in March/April to 18 in May, according to FanGraphs.

The key has been letting the game come to him rather than force the issue himself, Kiermaier said.

"There's times you get a 2-0, 3-1 count and you want to hit the ball 600 feet," he said, "but for me when I do that, I get too amped up and usually pop it up or put an out of control swing on good pitches to hit.

"I'm just going to stay relaxed, stay focused in here and keep everything easy and fluid, rather than getting out of my element and overswinging."

He's felt comfortable up there lately, and he hopes it stays that way.

"I feel like a broken record when I say this, but when I feel comfortable out there I feel like I'm a tough out and a lot better player for our team, and that's the way I feel right now," he said. "That's how it's been going for me lately and just try and stay locked in. I feel good and I'm just going to keep barreling balls."

Worth noting

• Kiermeier wasn't the Rays' only bright spot on Friday, as relief pitcher Ryan Garton threw 3 2/3 scoreless innings following starter Jake Odorizzi, who surrendered eight runs (three earned) in a 2 1/3 frames.

Garton's performance set the Rays up for future success in the series

"You know what, he did a nice job," manager Kevin Cash said. "We got an off-day on Monday, but he allowed us to keep most of the bullpen fresh. I was really impressed with how he got out there. He attacked, he was efficient."

Josh Horton is a reporter for MLB.com based in Seattle. He covered the Rays on Friday.

Tampa Bay Rays, Kevin Kiermaier