ST. PETERSBURG — The sparks were there. The shimmer of what could be in the near future could be seen.
A day after making three deadline deals, Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash unveiled a different lineup Tuesday evening vs. the defending World Champs Kansas City Royals. And while it showed some signs of promise, the Rays lost a late lead and fell 3-2.
Royals All-Star catcher Salvador Perez hit the go-ahead, game-winning two-run homer in the seventh inning.
“Tough loss,” Cash said. “We did some good things — we’d like to have some opportunities back we didn’t capitalize on.”
That’s because the Rays stranded four runners by the third inning and then 11 total in the game. Brad Miller, whose 17 homers were moved to the clean-up spot, grounded into a double play in the first and left the bases loaded in the third.
“Brad Miller smoked the ball twice and didn’t get anything to show for it,” Cash added.
Cash moved speedy centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier to second in the batting order, and the Gold Glove winner didn’t disappoint with two hits, a walk and a run scored. Kiermaier manufactured the Rays’ two runs in the fifth with a bunt single to score Logan Forstyhe, then scored on a Desmond Jennings ground out.
“They just said they wanted me to create a spark at the top of the order,” Kiermaier said. “They want me to get used to the two hole, so I can hit there next year. I like what I did today and I just want to take that into tomorrow.
“I’m just glad they trust me to put me in the two spot, and they said there;s no extra pressure to it, but, now, I want to hit behind Logan Forsythe and in front of Longo.”
More changes Tuesday included the return of Matt Andriese to the rotation. He filled in for the departed Matt Moore, who was traded to the San Francisco Giants for three players.
Andriese settled down after a shaky first in which he allowed an RBI single to Eric Hosmer, but then retired nine of 10 batters faced on 58 pitches and struck out three.
“I knew I wasn’t going to be able to go deep into the game,” said Andriese, who pitched two innings of relief Saturday vs. the New York Yankees. “But it felt good to go four solid innings.”
“Matt executed his game plan well and that was probably as good as anyone we’d seen over four innings this year,” Cash said.
It was hard for the Rays not to get to excited of what could be out of a line up that has seen much change in the past 24 hours. However, for those part of it, they’re ready for more.
“We did our jobs to get guys on base, but, at the same time, you’ve got to drive them in,” Kiermaier said. “We didn’t do that tonight, but you can see what the lineup is capable of.”
“We just came up short, you know?” Cash added. “We get guys on base, and that was a good start. If Forsythe and KK are getting on base, we have the chance for it be an electric lineup.”
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