Kevin Kiermaier: ‘It’s always fun when you get to stick it to the man’

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The Rays have, by far, the lowest team payroll in baseball this season at $53.5 million. The next-closest team is the Marlins at $70.6 million. The Rays have always been one of MLB’s thriftiest teams but the club has taken it to new levels as their Opening Day payroll of just over $60 million was their lowest since opening at $42 million in 2011.

Along with the Athletics, who happen to be their opponent in tonight’s AL Wild Card game, the Rays have approached the game with a “them against us” attitude where the big-spending Yankees and Red Sox must be dealt with by thinking outside the box. And, indeed, the Rays have, helping to popularize the use of “the opener,” in which a reliever starts the game for an inning or two before handing the ball to the would-be starter or another reliever. Their front office has been analytics-savvy long before every team had an analytics department.

Outfielder Kevin Kiermaier, who has been with the Rays being selected in the 31st round of the 2010 draft, was asked ahead of Wednesday’s AL Wild Card game about the Rays’ success despite having baseball’s lowest payroll. Kiermaier said, via Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, “It’s always fun when you get to stick it to the man.”

This is what the MLBPA is up against. Kiermaier thinks teams like the Red Sox ($236 million Opening Day payroll) are “the man” when in reality “the man” is Stuart Sternberg, the principal owner of the Rays. Sternberg, whose net worth is estimated at $800 million, bought the Rays for $200 million in 2004. The team is now worth $1 billion, according to Forbes. Payroll hasn’t grown at all while Sternberg has quintupled his original investment. The Rays don’t have to spend like the Red Sox but they also haven’t had to roll with $19-76 million payrolls since their inception. That is their own choice.

The Rays have done well enough with their small payrolls, winning 90 games last year and 96 games this year, but imagine if they increased payroll to sign a big-name free agent in his prime in recent years. The Rays might not have spent the last five seasons — the prime of Kiermaier’s career — watching the playoffs from home.

Nationals blow 6-run lead, rebound to beat Phillies 8-7

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WASHINGTON (AP) Lane Thomas singled in the go-ahead run in the eighth inning and the Washington Nationals sent the Philadelphia Phillies to their fifth straight loss, winning 8-7 after blowing a six-run lead.

The defending NL champion Phillies have just five victories in their last 18 games and are tied with the Nationals at the bottom of the NL East at 25-32.

“We’ve got to overcome it,” Phillies manager Rob Thomson said. “We’ve got to play better, get consistent in all phases and keep moving forward.”

Alex Call drew a two-out walk against Connor Brogdon (2-1) in the eighth, stole second on a low pitch that catcher JT Realmuto couldn’t make a throw on and scored on Thomas’ single to right center.

“The way Lane’s swinging the bat, if you can get on second base, we can win the game,” Call said. “I look over and the ball’s in the dirt, he doesn’t catch it. Now I’m saying: ‘All right, Lane. Come on!’”

Kyle Finnegan (3-2) pitched 1 2/3 innings for the victory, stranding the tying run on second in the ninth.

Nick Castellanos homered twice, singled, doubled and drove in five runs for Philadelphia, which had scored just three runs in its past three games.

“There’s definitely a lot of positives as a group,” Castellanos said. “Showing some fight. It would have been really, really easy to lay down and allow the way the game started to be the way that it finished.”

Down 7-1 after four innings, Philadelphia tied it at 7 in the eighth. Brandon Marsh worked a nine-pitch walk against Mason Thompson leading off, and Drew Ellis singled with one out. Finnegan came on to face Kyle Schwarber, who hit a ground ball up the middle. Shortstop CJ Abrams fielded it behind it behind second base, touched second for one out, but threw wildly to first and Marsh came home with the tying run.

Castellanos’s second homer, a two-run shot to center in the sixth, pulled the Phillies to 7-3 and Marsh added an RBI single in the inning.

In the seventh, Schwarber doubled with one out and Bryson Scott reached on an infield single. Hunter Harvey came on and walked Bryce Harper to load the bases. Castellanos singled to center scoring two runs to make it 7-6.

Luis Garcia homered and Jeimer Candelario doubled twice and drove in three runs for the Nationals, who have won seven of 12.

Philadelphia starter Zack Wheeler, coming off eight shutout innings against Atlanta, allowed seven runs on eight hits in 3 2/3 innings.

“This one’s on me really,” Wheeler said. “Guys battled back. Just couldn’t finish it out. We know who we have in this room and what we’ve got to do.”

Josiah Gray gave up four runs on six hits in 5 1/3 innings for Washington.

Candelario doubled just beyond the reach of left fielder Schwarber to drive in the first of Washington’s two runs in the first.

In the second, Abrams hit a one-out drive to deep center that Marsh misplayed into a double. With two outs and two on, Candelario doubled off the wall in right center to make it 5-0.

Garcia ended Wheeler’s night with a solo homer in the fourth.

“When you come out the way we did, you’ve got to tack on,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “It didn’t happen tonight, but we got one more than the other guys.”


Candelario is 9 for 26 (.346) with four doubles, a home run, nine RBIs, five walks, and seven runs scored in his last seven games.


Phillies: Thomson said RHP Taijuan Walker played catch Friday and there are “no worries about his next start.” In a four-inning outing against the Mets on Thursday, Walker’s sinker velocity averaged 90.6 mph, down from 92.7 mph for the season. His fastball, splitter and curveball velocity also dropped.

Nationals: OF Victor Robles (back spasms) took batting practice on the field for the first time since going on the injured list. … LHP Sean Doolittle (elbow) gave up a run on two hits and struck out two batters in 2/3 of an inning working his second straight night for Class A Fredericksburg.


Phillies: LHP Matt Strahm (4-3, 3.20) will start a bullpen game on Saturday.

Nationals: LHP MacKenzie Gore (3-3, 3.57) went seven innings and struck out a career-high 11 batters in his previous outing – a no decision against the Royals.

AP MLB: and