ST. PETERSBURG — Earlier in the week, Tampa Bay Rays RF Kevin Kiermaier made the highlight reel for the wrong reason when he missed on an attempted diving catch to open the 11th inning that led to a loss.
Two days after that costly mistake, Kiermaier came up with a dazzling play in the top of the eighth to help preserve a 1-0 victory against the Tigers.
With a runner on second and one out, Detroit’s Rajai Davis blooped a ball into shallow right field that appeared destined to land between a trio of Tampa Bay fielders that would have put Brad Boxberger into a bind with the top of the Tigers’ lineup due to hit.
But Kiermaier made a spectacular diving catch, keeping pinch-runner Andrew Romine at second base. Boxberger then struck out Ian Kinsler to end the inning.
“I was playing in anyway and got a good read — lost it in the lights for a second — then went at it at the last second and it went in my glove,’’ Kiermaier said. “It was a big situation for us, and I’m glad to help Boxberger out right there.’’
Following Tuesday’s extra-inning loss, Kiermaier admitted it was hard to shake off the play when his diving attempt at a liner from Kinsler hit off his glove and led to a leadoff triple.
“I still put that loss on my shoulders. I should have made the play, and I didn’t,’’ Kiermaier said. “But it’s all about blocking it out somehow, and I take a lot of pride in myself mentally. And all these guys in here said, ‘Hey, it happened, we love the way you play, so don’t change a thing.’ So that made me feel a lot better about myself, too.’’
3B Evan Longoria admired the play made by Kiermaier on Thursday and hopes he continues to showcase that side of his game.
“That is a play that really only he can make for us. He’s a really, really talented player,’’ Longoria said. “I’ve always told him in some of the other plays that he has made, and maybe not come up with, he has to keep playing that way.
“That’s what we saw in him when he first came up, that really aggressive style of play that has almost put him in the Sam Fuld category in the fans’ eyes, a guy that plays a little bit reckless and has a lot of ability. ... So there is no need to try to harness a guy like that.’’
The Rays became the first team in nearly 100 years to win a game when only getting one hit while also losing a game while allowing only one in the same season — Tampa Bay lost 3-2 to Oakland on May 21 despite allowing only the one hit.
The last team to do so was the 1915 St. Louis Terriers of the Federal League.
Manager Joe Maddon said the Rays would take a win no matter the circumstances.
“Of course. We’ve already lost a game like that, too, where we only gave up one hit, so touché ... touché to baseball,’’ Maddon said.
With former Rays LHP David Price on the mound Thursday, Maddon opted to go with a lineup featuring all right-handed hitters, which meant 1B James Loney was given the day off.
“David is really, really, really good against, obviously both sides, but lefties don’t hit homers, while the righties do catch him once in a while,’’ Maddon said. “So this just seemed to be the right way to go.’’
While Tampa Bay managed very little against Price, LF Brandon Guyer did shoot a line drive to the gap in right-center field in the bottom of the first for a run-scoring triple to bring home Ben Zobrist for what proved to be the only run — and hit — the Rays managed.
“I was just looking for, with two strikes, to try to put a ball in play,’’ Guyer said. “That may have been the one mistake he made all day, and I’m glad I was able to take advantage of it.’’
Smyly settling in
LHP Drew Smyly didn’t face his former team during the three-game series against Detroit, but he was able to catch up with many of his former teammates this week.
While Smyly, who makes his fourth start for the Rays when they open a three-game series tonight in Toronto, is adjusting to the Rays’ way of business, he said he’s fit right in without any issues.
“The first few days are a little awkward. You are kind of nervous and are not really comfortable around a lot of the guys because you don’t know them that well,’’ Smyly said. “But it doesn’t take long when you are around these guys all day, every day and traveling with them. So once you are here, it pretty much becomes family.’’
Tampa Bay recorded its AL-leading 16th shutout of the season, one shy of the team record set in 2013. The Rays did set a team record by recording their fourth 1-0 victory of the season. ... Tampa Bay heads to Toronto having allowed three or fewer runs in 18 consecutive road games. ... Maddon said C Jose Molina is “a little banged up.’’ ... C Ryan Hanigan (oblique) is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment today with Class-A Charlotte. ... OF David DeJesus went 1-for-4 as the DH with Charlotte on Wednesday in his first rehab game. ... Before Thursday’s game, a naturalization ceremony was held for 240 people who became new American citizens, including Rays vice president of marketing and game entertainment Darcy Raymond, who also threw out the ceremonial first pitch. ... LHP Matt Moore will sign autographs at the Wal-Mart located at 1208 E. Brandon Blvd. on Saturday from 2-3 p.m. ... The Tigers lost for the first time in recorded history (dating to 1914) while allowing only one hit.