Kevin Kiermaier fractured his hip and came back as Mike Trout
Can he be the spark plug the Rays need?
To the layman, a fractured hip might sound excruciating. It sounds like the type of injury that lays you out for months and saps any potential for a repeat of your Beer League Softball MVP season from 2016.
For Kevin Kiermaier, it apparently gives him superpowers.
The Rays’ 27-year-old centerfielder was out of the MLB lineup for just over two months, but he has been anything but rusty since his return. In five games, he is yet to leave the ballpark without a hit, tallying 10 hits in 21 at bats since his return. Five of those hits have been for extra bases. Three of those hits have left the yard. That’s as many long balls as KK had in his first 50 games of the season this year.
These haven’t been chip shots either. Two of the three have gone to dead center, with the former of the two coming in as the longest home run of the day on Sunday.
What did he do for a follow up to that blast? Leave the yard twice more on Wednesday, the second multi-homer game of his career.
Kiermaier is slashing .476/.522/1.048 since his return. That’s not a typo — his SLG is in fact over 1.000 since his return. He has tacked on a steal and his normal strong defense in the past week, and the Rays are hoping he may just be the spark they need to make a run down the stretch here.
The Rays offense was among the coldest in baseball while Kiermaier was injured, and they have already shown improvement, with three six-run outings since his return. Of course, they have lost two of those games, but having the offense clicking is something that will only help the Rays as they battle to stay around the playoff picture.
Mallex Smith and Peter Bourjos did all right to fill in for KK in his absence, but having Kiermaier lighting up the top of the lineup is the type of change that can really motivate a club. Kiermaier obviously isn’t going to keep up this absurd level of hitting (he would hit 98 homers over 162 games at this pace), but if he can put together a studly September, it may just be what the doctor ordered for Tampa Bay.
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