ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — It was a night of redemption for Kevin Kiermaier, who hit a three-run homer and made the biggest defensive play of the game to lead the Tampa Bay Rays past the Los Angeles Dodgers 8-1 on Wednesday.
One day earlier, Kiermaier’s baserunning blunder took the Rays out of a 7-3 loss to the Dodgers.
“I don’t think it had any carry-over,” Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said. “For him to do what he did on defence and then at the plate to really separate the game was big for us. We needed a little bit of breathing room. We haven’t had much lately.”
Avisail Garcia and Kiermaier each hit a three-run homer in the seventh inning to power the Rays. Kiermaier also made a rocket throw from centre field to cut down Cody Bellinger at home plate, keeping the score tied 1-all in the sixth.
Bellinger, who was aboard on a fielder’s choice, failed to reach base safely for the first time in 46 starts this season. He went 0 for 4, dropping his major league-leading batting average to .394.
Garcia’s eighth homer came off Dylan Floro, who entered with a 0.44 ERA — best among NL relievers. Floro (1-1) pitched to four batters and got none of them out.
“I know it’s going to happen,” said Floro, whose ERA spiked to 2.21. “I’m just disappointed to let the team down. I know I’m not going to be perfect every single time. This game is way too hard and it’s not just a month long. You’ve just got to learn from it and move on.”
Kiermaier capped the big inning with his fourth home run, which came off left-hander Caleb Ferguson. It was the first homer by Kiermaier off a lefty since June 25 last year.
“I always tell people it makes it even more special off a lefty. I haven’t seen a whole lot lately,” said Kiermaier, who has been held out of the lineup against some left-handers. “I want to be in there each and every day, and at-bats like that are going to make it tougher on them to keep me out of the lineup.”
Pham led off the fourth with his sixth homer, an opposite-field shot off starter Rich Hill.
Max Muncy tied it with a home run in the sixth off Rays reliever Yonny Chirinos. It was Muncy’s 10th of the season and eighth on the road.
Tampa Bay opener Ryne Stanek pitched 1 2/3 innings, giving up a hit and a walk while striking out two.
After Muncy’s drive in the sixth, Bellinger kept the inning going by beating a throw to first base to prevent a double play. He tried to score the lead run on Russell Martin’s two-out single, but Kiermaier threw him out.
Bellinger’s 45-game on-base streak to start the season stands as the sixth-longest in major league history. The longest, 57 games, was accomplished by John Olerud of the New York Mets in 1999.
The first of five hits off Hill was Ji-Man Choi’s bunt single down the third base line with nobody playing third. “In my opinion, I don’t like to see the entire left side of the field left open,” said Hill, who gave up one run in six innings. “I think hitters are getting better at understanding how to beat the shift. … Guys are getting more savvy. We’re trying to put our guys in position to have an optimal outcome. It’s one of those things where you love it when it works and you hate it when it doesn’t.”
Dodgers: RHP Pedro Baez is expected to be available Friday after being hit by a line drive just below the right knee Tuesday night. … RHP Kenta Maeda (left adductor strain) will pitch Sunday at Pittsburgh, his first start since May 15.
Rays: 3B-1B Yandy Diaz, hit on the left hand by a pitch Sunday, was out of the lineup for the second straight game. … INF Joey Wendle, out since April 26 with a broken right wrist, had his cast removed and will increase range of motion and strengthening drills. … Rehabbing INF Matt Duffy aggravated his strained left hamstring and will be evaluated.
Dodgers: RHP Walker Buehler (4-1, 3.83 ERA) will pitch Friday night’s opener of a three-game series at Pittsburgh.
Rays: A four-game series starts Thursday night at Cleveland, where the Rays are 27-51 all-time.