Rays' lefty batters get rare hits against Sale

LoMo, Kiermaier go deep against Boston ace

Rays' lefty batters get rare hits against Sale

BOSTON -- Entering Saturday's matinee at Fenway Park, Red Sox lefty Chris Sale had allowed just three hits to left-handed batters this season.

By the fifth inning, the Rays' lefty swingers tacked two more on to that total -- making them count by depositing them over the wall.

"They both got hit a long way. A real long way," Sale said. "That's not what I'm looking for, especially against lefties. I've got to be better. I think one of them was 0-2. That's about as bad as it gets. I need to do a better job on my end with that."

With the Rays trailing by one run in the fifth inning, Kevin Kiermaier turned on an 0-2, 98-mph fastball from Sale, sending it over the Red Sox's bullpen in left-center field for a two-run homer that put the Rays back on top.

Tampa Bay lost the game, 6-3, but that didn't take much away from the duo's feat.

Sale had entered the day having held hitters to 2-for-30 (.067) with 21 strikeouts when he had worked the count to 0-2. For Kiermaier, the 418-foot homer, his second of the season, was hit with an exit velocity of 108.1 mph -- which is the hardest-hit ball by a left-handed hitter off of Sale in the Statcast™ era.

"I figured he was going to try throwing a heater past me. I guessed right, put a good swing on it," Kiermaier said. "I'm definitely happy with that swing right there off of [one of], if not the, best pitcher in baseball."

In the second inning, Logan Morrison connected on a 1-1 offering that was hammered into the Tampa Bay bullpen, where reliever Danny Farquhar caught the rare treat.

"It was nice to see LoMo and KK hit the home runs," manager Kevin Cash said. "Obviously, a little unusual for lefties to have that kind of success against him. But LoMo's been swinging the bat really well, and KK got hot here yesterday, it seemed like, so maybe that put him in a good spot."

It was the first home run Sale had allowed to a left-handed hitter this season, and just the third homer overall, until Kiermaier upped those numbers by one.

Kiermaier's two-run homer

"I knew, last time here, he threw a lot of changeups to me," Morrison said. "Just watching him in the first inning, he was throwing a lot of changeups. So, I was like, 'Alright, just sit on a changeup and hope you don't swing at a fastball.' Took the first two pitches, 1-1, and he left me a changeup over the middle and I was able to barrel it and get it out."

Morrison's home run traveled an estimated 393 feet, and had an exit velocity of 107 mph, according to Statcast™. Prior to that blast, the hardest-hit ball off of Sale this season was a 95-mph lineout by Pittsburgh's Gregory Polanco on April 5. In that same game, Adam Frazier hit a ball recorded at 90.3 mph, which was the hardest hit against Sale by a lefty this season prior to Saturday.

The home run was Morrison's 10th of the season and came in his 36th game, making him the fastest Rays player to hit 10 since 2009, when Carlos Pena (23 games) and Evan Longoria (28 games) got hot early.

"We're sub-500. It ain't about personal stuff," Morrison said. "I felt good today. Yeah, I had one good swing, but I've got to be more consistent."

Sale, who twice allowed two home runs to left-handers in a game last season, has surrendered 117 home runs in his career -- just 10 of which were hit by lefties.

Craig Forde is a contributor to MLB.com based in Boston. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.