TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The Tampa Bay Rays returned home Monday for the first postseason game at Tropicana Field in six years – and it was a loud one.
The Rays avoided being swept by the Houston Astros and won Game 3 of the ALDS 10-3. More than 32,000 fans were there to witness the Rays force a Game 4 in the series, and they definitely brought the noise.
Here’s what center fielder Kevin Kiermaier and manager Kevin Cash had to say after the game.
On the crowd:
Kevin Cash: “We’re very appreciative of the crowd. I thought that the crowd was outstanding. We saw what the Houston fans did for that club. Feel like ours just did it for ours.”
Kevin Kiermaier: “Being out there and being in that kind of environment here at the field that has been home for me ever since day one, it’s hard to beat that feeling. Seeing everyone with the towels and every fan through every pitch, it was insane. That’s something that I’ve never experienced before, being out on the field when I was here in 2013, I was watching the game from the clubhouse. I wasn’t on the roster.
Being out there with the guys we’ve been going to work with each and every day since spring training, great feeling to be part of, and I can’t wait to get back out there again tomorrow night.”
On Kiermaier’s home run:
Kevin Cash: “It was big. The crowd was tremendous. Thank the Bay area fans. It was awesome. That really got it going before the game and then Altuve comes up, does what he does. Doesn’t quiet us down. But for us to, you know, get a lead and, albeit a three-run homer was huge. Then seemed like we kind of fed off that momentum right there for multiple innings. I think we scored in consecutive innings, two or three in a row.
It was good for the guys to add on. The bats have been quiet. We talked about it for good reason. It was good for them to continue to add on and find a way to separate the game. Really, when they made it 8-3, for us to answer back again was nice.”
Kevin Kiermaier: “It’s up there. First postseason event at the Trop…Felt great. I said already a couple interviews I just did, we’re a much better team when we play with the lead. There’s probably most teams in baseball like that. But whenever we get a lead early, you can just tell how everyone just kind of relaxes throughout the whole lineup.
Then even after my homer, you saw Ji-man, Willy, Brandon Lowe – that’s kind of how it’s been the whole season. We’re a team where we can come back too. But when we get ahead early, that’s when we’re our most dangerous.
For us to put three runs on the board, take a 3-1 lead early in the game, that felt great. That was huge for us. After that, just – hey, Charlie Morton, go do your thing, go do what you do, and he did just that. Our bullpen did a great job as well.”
On pitcher Charlie Morton:
Kevin Cash: “Outstanding. Certainly we weren’t expecting that after the first two innings, he had 50-plus pitches. They had good at-bats, but take away the Altuve home run and them putting pressure on him, he still got his strikeouts, I don’t know if it was eight or nine. But similar to the Oakland start, really turned it up when he had to and got efficient for us. Because the pace of the way we were getting through the first two innings, you’re wondering are we going to be able to get past three with him.
Certainly, I mean, just what Charlie’s done all year long. He’s got that knack for doing some special things for us, and he did again.”
Kevin Kiermaier: “I wasn’t fazed at all. I know what Charlie is capable of. I don’t think he was fazed either. It’s probably definitely not what he imagined or have his pitch count get up there early. But he still gave us five strong innings, and, you know, that’s the way he’s been all year. And we don’t want anyone else on the mound in that situation, this type of game, what’s at stake and whatnot.
Charlie’s been our horse all year and he’s pitched in the big moments throughout his whole career, and once again today – elimination game, just it’s hard to beat him. And he went out there and pitched great again, once again.
Like I said, I think the world of him, and him having the resume he has, and him still performing at his age and everything, it’s absolutely incredible. But the work that guy puts in each and every day, you guys aren’t fortunate enough to see like me but, man, more people need to watch what he does day in, day out because it is truly incredible.”
On fighting back in Game 3:
Kevin Kiermaier: “We have fought each and every day since opening day this season. There’s no quit in these guys. You know, just what we’ve done especially the last two or three weeks, some of the wins that we’ve had just pulled them out of nowhere. Just shows you the character in our clubhouse from top to bottom, and that’s just the way it’s been all year.
I knew we were capable of being in this position, having success here as well. Tough first two games. Verlander and Cole were dominant. We’re capable of doing what we did today. We have the talent to do just that, have an offensive outburst, and we know we’re going to have a tough test again tomorrow.
But anything can happen in between those white lines and I don’t want anyone to tell me or any of my other teammates that you don’t have a shot at this. We know what Houston’s capable of – Verlander, his resume and all that. At the end of the day, we’re out there competing, trying to win a ball game each and every day. We don’t care who’s on the mound. We’ve got some studs on this team as well.
We’ve got a little momentum going on our side right now. We’re going to try to apply that tomorrow and pack the Trop out and go from there and feed off the crowd’s energy.”
On pitching plans for Game 4:
Kevin Cash: “We’ll start with Diego. From there, depends kind of where we land in the batting order. But with the performance from Charlie and the rest of the guys, Oliver Drake super efficient today with his two innings, able to bounce back. We’re capable of multiple innings from a lot of the guys in the bullpen.”
On Justin Verlander pitching in Game 4:
Kevin Cash: “He’s tough. We’ve got to enjoy what we accomplished today and certainly hope we can have better at-bats, production, get something going against him. We’ll worry about that tomorrow. Right now, the guys are pretty pumped about what they just did tonight.”
Kevin Kiermaier: “We’re going to have to sit here and work on a game plan from an individual standpoint when you talk about position players. I’m going to sit here and watch how he threw to me the other day and how he’s attacking me. I know all the other guys will do the same thing. It’s nice to face the guy, even though Verlander is really good, but we just faced him a couple days ago. He’ll be ready to go. He’ll bring his A-game, but we’ll plan on doing the same thing.
And like I said have a little bit better game plan and try to use video and stuff like that, what he did to each and every one of us the other day and try to be a little bit more prepared.
At the same time, you still got to go out there and hit those pitches that he throws, because everything he throws is nasty. But with that being said, though, we’re feeling really good about ourselves. Essentially, we have nothing to lose. We know what we’re going up against, and this is – we don’t really feel any pressure, to be quite honest, from top to bottom. It will be fun to go out, play in front of our fans, and hopefully we can put on a show for them early and often.”
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