By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports
PORT CHARLOTTE — Kevin Kiermaier ripped a double in his first at-bat with the Charlotte Stone Crabs Thursday, as the Tampa Bay Rays outfielder is closing in on a return with the big club.
“I felt good. It’s the first game back really, other than the Gulf Coast game,” Kiermaier said. “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.”
That was his lone hit of the first game, but he did come around to score after a four-pitch walk in Charlotte’s four-run sixth inning on the way to a 4-0 win over the Lakeland Flying Tigers.
The game was the first of two between these teams on Thursday as inclement weather Wednesday forced a doubleheader Thursday.
Kiermaier is recovering from a hand injury, which he suffered in May while diving for a ball in the outfield. Kiermaier was tested only a couple times in the outfield, easily catching both flyballs hit in his direction.
“I hope so,” Kiermaier said of his possible return to the Rays on Friday. “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.”
Stone Crabs 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 last week. The left-handed pitcher topped that performance with an even better outing Thursday.
He held the Flying Tigers scoreless over five innings, while allowing two hits and racking up five strikeouts.
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 Alec Sole were picked off by Lakeland pitcher Tyler Alexander in the inning.
STONE CRABS 4, FLYING TIGERS 0
Hitter of the Game
Justin Williams, Stone Crabs: The Charlotte rightfielder ripped a two-run double – his second two-bagger of the game – in the sixth to give the Stone Crabs a 2-0 lead, and ultimately the win.
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.
Fourth: Each of Charlotte’s first three batters reached base in the fourth, but a pair of runners picked off by the pitcher ended any threat for the Stone Crabs:
They said it:
Kevin Kiermaier, Stone Crabs, on yesterday’s rain out: “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.”