NEW YORK – Kevin Kiermaier's voice was raspy, the toll of 16 celebrations over 17 games.
“We’re all huddled around,” the Rays center fielder said, describing the large circle that had just gathered in the clubhouse. “I just give all the pitchers shout-outs, nice defensive plays, homers, stuff like that, and then kind of finish it with my own little rap, jingle thing."
Kiermaier has had much to sing about. He sparked the offense behind Rich Hill, who threw five scoreless innings to finish May with the lowest monthly ERA in 75 years of a pitcher in his 40s, and Tampa Bay kept up its domination of the reeling Yankees with a 3-1 victory Monday.
Tampa Bay's 16-1 spurt opened a 5 1/2-game AL East lead over third-place New York — and led to postgame frivolity.
”Every and every year, I said, `Fellas, I don't have to do it if you don’t want it.' And everyone wants me to do it,” Kiermaier went on. “I’m glad my teammates don’t judge me for it, because when guys come over to get traded and see it for the first time, they’re just kind of bashful at times. But it’s all good fun.”
Kiermaier singled leading off the third against Jameson Tallion (1-4) and scored on Manuel Margot's double as right fielder Aaron Judge overthrew the cutoff man, and the Rays never trailed for the fifth straight game.
Austin Meadows homered into the right-field short porch in the fourth, a 334-foot drive would not have been out of any other big league ballpark, and Kiermaier doubled leading off the fifth and scored on Randy Arozarena's single.
“He's the leader in the clubhouse and he’s the heart and soul of this club,” Hill said.