Outfield plays big role in Rays' 15-inning win

Outfield plays big role in Rays' 15-inning win

MINNEAPOLIS -- Everywhere you looked in the Rays' clubhouse you could find someone who contributed to the team's 8-6 victory over the Twins on Sunday. But without the defensive play of the Rays' outfielders, the outcome likely would've been very different.

Starting in the first inning when left fielder Colby Rasmus threw out a runner at third base, the Rays' outfield left its mark all over the 15-inning win. Nobody was more impactful than center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, who made two four-star catches, both saving runs on balls hit by Twins shortstop Jorge Polanco.

"I just go out there and try to run down as many as I can," Kiermaier said.

With two on and two out in the sixth inning, Polanco lined a ball into short right-center. According to Statcast™, Kiermaier raced 60 feet in 3.8 seconds to run down a ball that had a 35 percent catch probability.

Kiermaier's superb running catch

He made an even bigger play in the eighth. The Twins had just scored a run to break a 3-3 tie, and with runners on the corners and one out, Polanco hit a rocket to deep right-center. This time Kiermaier covered 88 feet in 4.8 seconds to run down the ball at the wall. A run scored on the sacrifice fly, but the catch limited the damage in a key point of the game.

"I never count him out on any play," said right fielder Steven Souza Jr., who had the closest view of the play, which had a 38 percent catch probability. "That was one of the best plays -- he made it look a little easier, but he ran a really long way for the ball."

Souza throws out Dozier at home

Souza followed with a huge defensive play on the next batter. With Brian Dozier running from first on a full-count pitch, Joe Mauer lashed a single to right-center. Kiermaier was shading Mauer to left-center, so Souza had to cut the ball off as Dozier was circling the bases.

"With a 3-2 count he was running, so really he's kind of on second base," Souza said, "so I came up expecting to throw, and when I saw he was going I just unleashed it."

The throw reached home plate on the fly, and catcher Jesus Sucre made a diving tag to prevent Dozier from scoring an insurance run. The Rays ended up tying the game in the next frame to force extra innings.

Souza's throw home was clocked at 95 mph, his second-hardest throw since Statcast™ began tracking the category in 2015, just 2 mph shy of a throw he made in Thursday's game against the Angels.

Kiermaier had a hiccup in the 14th inning when he misjudged Max Kepler's fly ball, and dropped it for an error. Kepler scored on Robbie Grossman's single to tie the game again after the Rays had taken the lead in the top half of the inning.

Alex Colome got out of the jam, and Monday's starter, Erasmo Ramirez, closed the game out in the 15th, but Kiermaier wasn't happy that he put the team in that spot.

 "We could've ended it in the 14th, so I was really upset with myself right there," Kiermaier said. "For Colome and Erasmo having to come into that game because of me was a big bummer."

If it weren't for his plays in the sixth and eighth innings, however, the game would not have reached the 14th inning, and the Rays wouldn't have finished off a series victory against the AL Central-leading Twins.

Patrick Donnelly is a contributor to MLB.com based in Minneapolis. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.