Error-filled series baffles Kiermaier

Two-time Gold Glove-winner makes three errors in four games, now has twice as many as all of 2016

Error-filled series baffles Kiermaier

ST. PETERSBURG -- As Kevin Kiermaier watched the situation unfold in front of him, he couldn't believe it.

Squatting in center field Thursday afternoon with his hands resting on his chin, the Rays' two-time Gold Glove outfielder shook his head while looking on in astonishment as Kansas City's Whit Merrifield rounded third and easily scored on what should have been nothing more than a single in the eighth inning.

Instead, another badly-timed lapse in judgment on a grounder up the middle caused the ball to skid beneath the hard-charging Kiermaier's glove and roll to the wall for his third error in the four-game set as Tampa Bay was blanked, 6-0, at Tropicana Field.

"I didn't think I'd ever be talking about defensive issues," a somber Kiermaier said. "But this has been a weird four days for me."

Before the series, Kiermaier had committed three errors in his previous 144 games combined. Now, with four on the season to double his total from all of 2016, he joined only San Diego's Hunter Renfroe and Avisail Garcia of the White Sox as outfielders with that many.

"I'm owning up to it," said Kiermaier, who signed a six-year, $53.5 million extension before the season.

"You've got to get your glove on the ground and that's something I didn't do."

Thursday's uncharacteristic gaffe against the Royals was just the latest in a string of bad-luck moments for the 27-year-old known for his ability to make highlight-reel defensive plays.

On Monday, a similar grounder by Lorenzo Cain skipped underneath Kiermaier's glove and ricocheted off his shoe before pin-balling into the gap for a "Little League home run." He also let another ball roll past him on Tuesday in the third during Jorge Bonifacio's single for a two-base error, and could have been charged with another miscue five innings later when he bobbled a single by Alex Gordon, allowing Salvador Perez to score the tying run in the Royals' 7-6 come-from-behind victory.

Cain touches 'em all after error

"Anytime [Kiermaier] doesn't make a play, it's going to be surprising, and that's a credit to his track record and the way he performed here over the last 3-4 years," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "Look, we've got some guys who are having a rough time on offense, on defense, on the mound. Maybe it's a good thing to get on the road and see if we can get out of that."

Kiermaier doesn't think the issues will linger after Tampa Bay opens a six-game road trip in Boston on Friday. The focus is there, he said. Now, it's about executing like he always has.

"It's just one of those things I can't explain, to be honest," Kiermaier said. "It's crazy to me. … But I need to clean it up and figure all this out.

"I'm not worried about it, by any means, but I have to be better. This is terrible on my part."

Jeff Odom is a contributor to MLB.com based in St. Petersburg who covered the Rays on Thursday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.