Short hop keeps Kiermaier, Casali from saving Rays

Short hop keeps Kiermaier, Casali from saving Rays

CLEVELAND -- Anybody who has seen Kevin Kiermaier play knew that the play at the plate was going to be a close one.

Cast your Esurance All-Star ballot for #ASGWorthy players

And the final play of a 1-0 Indians' win over the Rays on Sunday was just that, leaving the Rays lamenting about the one that got away.

The bases were loaded with one out in the bottom of the ninth of a scoreless game when David Murphy hit a fly ball to center field. Kiermaier, who runs balls down as good or better than any outfielder in baseball, also has an excellent arm. Once he caught Murphy's drive, he aired out a throw home to hopefully keep the game scoreless and send the game to extra innings.

"I said 'Yes' the second I threw it because I thought I had enough behind it," Kiermaier said.

Unfortunately for the Rays, the ball arrived on one hop and catcher Curt Casali could not hang on to make the bang-bang play.

"The closer [the ball] got to Curt, I saw it die down," Kiermaier said. "...I thought for sure we had him and we were going to go into extras. But that's baseball and it's a weird game. We came up on the short end."

Casali saw Kiermaier release the ball and he thought the throw was going to reach him in the air.

"Because that's what K.K. does, he has a great arm," Casali said. "...When it's a bang-bang play like that, I just have to stay there and, honestly, they teach infielders to play the ball. But as a catcher in that situation, I have to let the ball play me. And sit there and wait for it and hopefully come up with the ball. And today it's just an instance of one I didn't get."

Kiermaier said he dreams of having balls hit to him in that scenario.

"I want to capitalize on it right there," Kiermaier said. "I felt like I made a good throw when it left my hand. But the end result made it tough on Curt with that short hop. And more times than not I feel like catchers are just going to have to guess where it goes [when the ball hops]. And I didn't do a good job of getting it to him either in the air or a long hop."

Rays manager Kevin Cash said he thought Kiermaier made a "tremendous" play.

"Great throw, but extremely tough for Curt to handle," Cash said. "It's one of those, if you make the play, it's just an incredible all around play. But you can certainly understand why you don't."

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. Listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.