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The Journal Gazette

  • Associated Press Local product Kevin Kiermaier of the Rays heads to the dugout after homering Wednesday, one of his three hits.

Thursday, July 12, 2018 1:00 am

Tampa Bay 4 Detroit 2

Kiermaier has 3 hits as Rays sweep Tigers

DICK SCANLON | Associated Press

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Even after his first three-hit game of the season and a home run, Kevin Kiermaier knew the focus deserved to be elsewhere Wednesday after the Tampa Bay Rays completed a three-game sweep of the Detroit Tigers with a 4-2 victory.

C.J. Cron's three-run home run in the seventh inning carried the Rays to their fifth straight win, and five pitchers held the opponent to two runs or fewer for the 12th time in the Rays' past 15 home games, in which they are 14-1.

“These past couple of weeks have shown you that we can compete with the best teams in baseball,” said Kiermaier, a Bishop Luers graduate. “You see a lot of people growing in here, and it starts with our pitching staff and what they've done.”

The Rays' “bullpen-days” formula is “different from what any other team has ever done in the history of the game,” Kiermaier added, “and we've found a way to make it work.”

Cron and Kiermaier each had three hits for the Rays, who have won 14 of 18, and Joey Wendle extended his hitting streak to 11 games with double.

It was only the second multihit game of the season for Kiermaier, who came into the game with a .157 average in 30 games.

“It looks like he's starting to turn the corner a little bit and get his season going,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said.

“Here we are in mid-July and his numbers are what they are. But look at the wins we've had since he's been back. It's been pretty telling.”

Cron's 18th homer came off Jordan Zimmermann after singles by Kiermaier and Matt Duffy. It turned a gritty start by Zimmermann (4-1) into a loss, and the Tigers' right-hander blamed himself for challenging Cron on a 2-0 pitch.

“My stubbornness came in and I thought, 'Throw the slider now on the (outside) corner, paint it and get this guy out,'” Zimmermann said. “Of course, those are the ones you hang.”

The Tigers, who struck out 14 times against five Tampa Bay pitchers, have lost four straight and 18 of 22.