Center fielder makes impressive catch to temporarily keep ace's perfect game alive
By Troy Provost-Heron
ST. PETERSBURG -- Kevin Kiermaier has always been able to cover a lot of ground, but in the sixth inning of the Rays' 2-1 loss to the Tigers on Wednesday, Tampa Bay's center fielder used his speed in the field in an effort to maintain perfection.
When Detroit catcher James McCann stepped to the plate in the sixth, Chris Archer had retired the first 16 batters he faced. But on a 3-2 slider, McCann jolted one to deep center, and Kiermaier responded by making a beeline toward the wall.
After tracking the ball to the warning track, Kiermaier leapt, then after getting fully extended, he snagged the ball before crashing into the wall.
"We were playing kind of shallow all day, because every time Arch is pitching, you try and make guys beat you on hitting one over your head rather than something falling in, because Arch is that good," Kiermaier said. "[McCann] made good contact on it, but I got a good read on it.
"As I was running, I was kind of deciding whether I wanted to make a basket catch or not, and I decided to just throw my glove up there, and thankfully I had enough room to make the catch. It felt great at the time, because we all knew what Arch had going for him … but it would have felt a lot better if we would have come out on top."
The highlight-reel play drew a thunderous roar from the 28,057 at Tropicana Field, as well as a tip off the cap from Archer, who went on to retire a franchise-record 19 batters to begin the ballgame before giving up an infield single to Jose Iglesias in the seventh.
"I didn't really know off the bat [where it was going to be]," Archer said. "I thought it was a fly ball, and then I looked back, and KK's back was to us. My thoughts were probably the same as everybody who saw it. Amazing. Gold Glove. Outlaw being Outlaw."
The leaping catch was just another example of the range and defensive ability that the Rays have witnessed all season from the 25-year-old Kiermaier, but none of his other spectacular catches have come in a moment like Wednesday's.
"He's probably the only center fielder in baseball that makes that play, but we've seen him do it 10-15 times this year," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "It's tough to rank, but given the score of the game and what was going on at the time, it was a pretty special play."
Troy Provost-Heron is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.