By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports
PORT CHARLOTTE — Kevin Kiermaier looked comfortable in five plate appearances during Thursday’s doubleheader sweep for the Charlotte Stone Crabs against the Lakeland Flying Tigers.
The Tampa Bay Rays outfielder, rehabbing an injured hand, had a double, single, two walks and two runs scored between the two games.
“I felt good. It’s the first game back really, other than the Gulf Coast game,” Kiermaier said. “I made some good contact there in my first at-bat. The game didn’t seem fast at all or anything to me, and that’s the key.”
Charlotte won Game One 4-0, and took Game Two 5-2. Each of the two games were seven innings.
Kiermaier ripped a double in his first at-bat of the night, and also scored a run in the Stone Crabs’ four-run sixth inning of Game One. He took two more at-bats in the second game, hit a single, scored a run and drew a walk.
“I hope so,” Kiermaier said of his possible return to the Rays on today. “If you ask me, I would say ‘yeah’. It’s up to the front office, managers and trainers for what they want to do. I feel ready, so I’ll leave it in their hands and let them make the decision.”
Charlotte pitcher Grayson Garvin was fresh off his first start of the season where he allowed one run on two hits over five innings of work. The left-handed pitcher topped that performance with an even better outing in Thursday’s first game.
He held the Flying Tigers scoreless over five innings while allowing two hits and racking up five strikeouts.
“Two things stuck out for me tonight,” Stone Crabs manager Michael Johns said. “Our pitchers threw strikes to keep us in the game, and our defense played really well in wet conditions. To go 14 innings without any errors is pretty impressive.”
Diego Castillo tossed a pair of scoreless innings in relief to earn the win for Charlotte.
Justin Williams and Grant Kay had the big hits for Charlotte in the sixth. Williams drove in two runs on a double ripped down the first base line, as Kay drove in two more runs on a home run.
The Stone Crabs had three hits in the fourth inning, but a pair of baserunning miscues spoiled the frame. Both Mac James and AlecSole were picked off by Lakeland pitcher Tyler Alexander in the inning.
In the second game, Charlotte wasted no time, as they got on the scoreboard with a run in the first, and two more in the second.
Kiermaier’s one-out walk sparked the inning, and he later came around to score on Williams’ single.
Charlotte grabbed two more runs in the second with RBI outs from Matt Eureste and McCarthy to score Armando Araiza and Thomas Milone.
Pitcher Jeff Howell was going strong until he struggled in the fourth inning. Howell surrendered a leadoff single, with three walks to follow. Michael Franco came into the game with the bases loaded and one out, and quickly got a strikeout and flyout to end the threat.
Franco earned the victory in game two.
STONE CRABS 4, FLYING TIGERS 0
STONE CRABS 5, FLYING TIGERS 2
HITTER OF THE GAME
Justin Williams, Stone Crabs: The Charlotte rightfielder had two doubles, two singles and three RBI in the two games, single-handedly driving in more runs than his opponents.
PITCHER OF THE GAME
Grayson Garvin, Stone Crabs: In his second start of the season, Garvin held the Flying Tigers scoreless in five innings of work, while allowing two hits and striking out five batters.
THEY SAID IT
Kevin Kiermaier, Stone Crabs Outfielder, on Wednesday’s rainout: “It stunk. I get amp’d up the whole day for my first game back, and mother nature just wasn’t agreeing. I played four years ago in this league. I know how it is. It rains all the time.”