Dickerson’s bat, Kiermaier’s glove lifts Rays past Jays
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Kevin Kiermaier is known as “The Outlaw” to many Tampa Bay Rays fans because of his ability to steal extra-base hits from opponents.
His latest victim — the Toronto Blue Jays.
Kiermaier made two impressive defensive plays and Corey Dickerson added a late home run to lift the Rays to a 2-0 win against the Blue Jays on Thursday at Tropicana Field.
Kiermaier robbed Steve Pearce and Justin Smoak of potential extra-base hits as the Rays (63-66) closed out their six-game home stand by winning three of the final four games.
Toronto (60-67) has lost five of its last six games.
Despite the low score the game was not a pitcher’s duel as Rays’ starter Alex Cobb didn’t get out of the fifth inning thanks in part to a high-pitch count. Cobb gave up four hits and struck out five but threw 94 pitches (53 strikes) in 4 1/3 innings.
The Rays bullpen, however, came through strong as Steve Cishek, Brad Boxberger, Sergio Romo and Alex Colome combined to give up two hits in 4 2/3 scoreless innings.
Cishek (2-0) pitched two-thirds of an inning to get the win and Colome struck out two in the ninth for his major-league leading 38th save.
“Really good performance from all of our pitchers,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “I thought Alex did a good job of competing. He felt good, which was most important. We needed to manage his workload given that he had 18-19 days off. The bullpen came in and stepped up in a huge way.”
Blue Jays starter Tom Koehler did make it through five innings and took the loss (1-6), giving up four hits and one run while striking out seven.
“I felt good, I definitely threw more pitches earlier than I would like to,” Koehler said. “After five innings you don’t really want to be pushing 100 pitches and you’re asking a lot from your bullpen. Early in the game I had a lot of adrenaline, it had been a while since I pitched so there was definitely some excitement. I was able to settle down late and get some quick outs.”
Tampa Bay took a 1-0 lead when it loaded the bases against Koehler in the second inning and Dickerson scored on a sacrifice fly by Daniel Robertson.
Dickerson made it 2-0 in the eighth inning with a solo home run to straight-away center field off Blue Jays reliever Danny Barnes.
Toronto’s best opportunity to score came in the top of the fifth when Miguel Montero and Ryan Goins got on base with no outs. Darwin Barney failed to bunt them over and instead grounded into a fielder’s choice that got Montero out at third.
Kiermaier robbed Pearce of an extra-base hit with an amazing running, diving catch in the right-center gap.
“Any time you can take away hits like that, especially in a game like this, where runs are limited, it’s huge. It was quite crazy. That’s why it can be a game of inches.”
The next batter, Donaldson, appeared to hit a two-run double down the left-field line but the Rays challenged the call and it was determined that the ball did not clip the chalk.
“Yeah, that foul ball...they must have better cameras up there,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “Because that looked like it caught something. But that’s why they have replay.”
After Donaldson walked, Justin Smoak hit a bloop to short center field and Kiermaier made another diving catch.
“Kiermaier, unbelievable,” Gibbons said. “The first one and then of course to come in and get Smoak’s ball the last time. That’s what he does. We get the same stuff out of (Kevin) Pillar. Those guys win you games.”
NOTES: Blue Jays RHP Tom Koehler hit Rays 2B Brad Miller with a 94-mph fastball between the shoulder blades. Miller, however, jogged to first base and stayed in the game until the fifth inning when he left with a right shoulder contusion). ... Blue Jays manager John Gibbons confirmed that RHP Marco Estrada is pitching Saturday against the Twins. ... Gibbons also said RHP Aaron Sanchez is throwing again after having problems with blisters on his finger. .. Rays RHP Jake Faria (left abdominal strain) was scheduled to do soft-toss catch Thursday after being shut down for three days.