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This time, it is Kevin Kiermaier’s bat that sparks Rays to victory

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You admire him for his arm.

You have seen Kevin Kiermaier throw the danger off of the base paths, and you have nodded at the performance. He has a fine arm, an arm that opposing baserunners should fear. And for the Tampa Bay Rays, that is a strong enough weapon.

And you have cheered him for his glove.

You have seen Kiermaier chase down would-be doubles and steal them from the air, and you have cheered the sight. He has an excellent glove, a glove that left enemy batters muttering to themselves all season. For the Rays, that, too, is an excellent thing to have.

Then there are his legs.

Oh, you like to see him run. He goes from home to third base with the speed of light, pushing his limits, testing the arms of the other outfielders as he goes.

Ah, but here is something you don’t see much from Kevin Kiermaier.

His bat.

Kiermaier’s two-run homer provided the Rays with their only runs in Tuesday night’s 2-0 victory over the Atlanta Braves. It was a rare enough occurrence. Kiermaier hadn’t hit a home run for more than two months, and he hadn’t hit one with a runner aboard since the Rays’ second game of the year. Now, consider that his hand was sore, and you’re really testing the odds.

“I told the guys ‘I don’t always hit home runs, but when I do, I make them count,” Kiermaier said. “It felt really good to make a contribution to the offense, because I haven’t been doing as well as I want. For me to hit that in that situation was big for me and the team. I was on cloud nine as I was running the bases.”

Think Kiermaier felt good? How about how pitcher Erasmo Ramirez felt?

Ramirez might be the surprise story of the season. He was 1-6 for Seattle last year, and even after he came to Tampa Bay, he didn’t exactly induce drool. But since May 14, he’s 9-3, and he’s among the American League leaders in ERA, batting average against and the opponents slugging percentage. Not bad for an afterthought of a trade.

Against the Braves, Ramirez gave up hits to four of the first eight batters he faced. But then he settled in, and he retired 16 in a row to get to the eighth inning, a rarity for the Rays’ staff. He had still thrown only 70 pitches, but Kevin Cash removed him and got scoreless frames from Brandon Gomes and Xavier Cedeno, who earned his first save.

Jake Odorizzi starts today for the Rays as the series with Atlanta resumes.

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit [email protected]

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