Clutch Isiah Kiner-Falefa comes up big again for New York Yankees

Isiah Kiner-Falefa New York Yankees
New York Yankees shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa misses a pitch during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays, Tuesday.
AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews

First, he drove in the runs, and then a key play helped protect the New York Yankees lead. Isiah Kiner-Falefa had a pair of big plays in Tuesday’s series-opening win over the Tampa Bay Rays in the latest examples of just how clutch the Yankee shortstop has become for them. 

The win marked the third consecutive multi-hit game that Kiner-Falefa had, hitting a double in the second inning and then driving in the go-ahead run in the fourth off an RBI single. And his defensive prowess shined through two innings later when a quick-thinking play kept a single by Ji-Man Choi in the infield to keep Tampa Bay from scoring. 

“He’s just a gamer man,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “He is just a gamer and he made a number of terrific plays tonight, and obviously came up with a big hit. He just does a lot of things to help you win games and he’s been in the middle of us winning a lot of games. Whether it be a big hit, a huge defensive play and there were a couple of sparklers tonight.” 

The defensive play in the fourth was perhaps his biggest contribution of the night, even bigger than the runs he helped drive in. The stop allowed Cole to finally get out of the jam by getting Randy Arozarena to ground out on the first pitch of his at-bat. 

The stop was a moment that stood up out to the Yankees ace, who was trying to rebound from a rough start in his last appearance on the mound. 

Isiah Kiner-Falefa
New York Yankees’ Isiah Kiner-Falefa hits a an RBI-double in the first inning of a baseball game, Sunday against the Chicago Cubs.AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

“Him knocking it down right there, it’s huge,” Cole said about the play. “If it that’s not a defensive run saved then I don’t know what is.” 

Kiner-Falefa is in his first season with the Yankees, who acquired him along with Josh Donaldson from the Minnesota Twins prior to the start of the season. The 27-year-old had spent the past four seasons with the Texas Rangers before he was dealt to the Twin Cities and then traded again to the Bronx. 

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The Bombers have been the recipient of good fortunes with Kiner-Falefa in their lineup this season. He has batted .272 this season for the Yankees and has started in 55 games for New York. 

“That’s just when I have the most fun,” he said. “I like being in those spots and when the team needs me most, I enjoy coming through. It makes me really happy and it helps the team win.  At end of the day, that’s my job. That’s why I’m here. I’ve been a little shaky on some plays this year, but I definitely felt like I came through for the team tonight.”