Kiermaier sees positive signs from 2-RBI night

Kiermaier sees positive signs from 2-RBI night

ST. PETERSBURG -- After the Rays dropped a 10-6 decision to the Marlins on Wednesday night at Tropicana Field, Kevin Kiermaier's performance could be viewed as one positive to take from the defeat.

"It didn't go our way for us tonight, but for me individually, I feel like I'm getting back on the right track," Kiermaier said.

Kiermaier entered the game in the midst of an 0-for-18 stretch, coupled with a 1-for-37 when extended further. He hit the ball hard in his first at-bat, but Marlins shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria robbed Kiermaier, turning his hot shot into a forceout.

"He made a great play, but that's kind of how it's been going for me," Kiermaier said.

Hechavarria's great sliding stop

Kiermaier then stepped to the plate in the second with the bases loaded. With an 0-for-20 staring him in the face, Kiermaier came through, lining a single to center to score two and put the Rays up, 3-0.

"I was happy to come up in a bases-loaded situation and get a big knock right there," Kiermaier said.

Rays manager Kevin Cash noted that Kiermaier had some good swings Wednesday night.

"Obviously the big hit with the bases loaded," Cash said. "It's nice to see us get that hit with the bases loaded."

Kiermaier also was credited with his third outfield assist on the season. Throughout his dry offensive spell, there has been no dropoff where his stellar defense is concerned.

"You can't let your offense affect your defense," Kiermaier said.

Throughout his slump, Kiermaier tried to remain positive, and actually remembered some words offered him by former Yankees great Derek Jeter.

Kiermaier talked to Jeter last year during the Rays' trip to Cuba.

"He said the best players in the game bounce back when they go 0-for-30, 0-for-40," Kiermaier said. "He goes, 'It's not a matter of if that's going to happen, it's when that's going to happen.' And he was telling me about a couple of rough stretches in his career.

"It makes you kind of take a step back and [realize] even the best players in the game struggle at some point. ... I just know this game isn't easy by any sense. Especially hitting."

Kiermaier called the stretch "probably the worst stretch of my career thus far." The slump came about during the April 21-23 Houston series, when he came down with a virus that left his head clogged and depleted his energy. Though he recovered from the virus, his bat did not show signs of healing until Wednesday night.

Kiermaier's 2-for-his-last-42 stretch has taken its toll, dropping his average from .294 to .200. Now he's hoping he's turned the corner.

"I went up to the plate every time feeling very confident," Kiermaier said. "I was very pleased with my first two at-bats. Later in the game, I got some pitches to hit and I didn't do what I'd like with them. Still, baseball's always a work in progress. But I am going up to the plate now with a clear mind and feeling like I'm going to do some damage up there."

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for since 2005. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.