‘Thank God I’m a Yankee,’ exudes a relaxed Kiner-Falefa after thrilling defensive show

Playing left field for the Yankees on Aug 2, 2023, Isiah Kiner-Falefa picked up his first two career outfield assists in a 7-2 win over the Rays at Yankee Stadium.

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The Yankees’ 7-2 triumph over the Rays on Wednesday was incomplete without a mention of Isiah Kiner-Falefa. While his amazing defense and throws prevented Tampa Bay players from reaching the second base twice, Kiner-Falefa’s comments about the trade also attracted attention.

The utility player of the Yankees was uneasy after reports anticipated a possible trade deal involving him. When everything was settled and talks were finished after the Trade Deadline on Tuesday at 6 p.m. Eastern Time, Kiner-Falefa found himself the most joyful person in the Bronx. Following the victory against the Rays, he shared that he was excited on Tuesday when the trade deadline ended without anyone from the Yankees contacting him.

“I’m happy to be here. I was screaming at six o’clock [Tuesday], when they didn’t call my name. 6:15, I was waiting, waiting, waiting. Nothing happened… It was a sigh of relief,” Kiner-Falefa said. “Thank God I’m a Yankee.”

Kiner-Falefa loves to be a Yankees player

Before the trade deadline on Tuesday, the Yankees were open to considering offers from other teams for players who will become free agents. However, no suitable deals were made, and players like Kiner-Falefa, Harrison Bader, Luis Severino, and Wandy Peralta remained with the team. Maybe this situation allowed Kiner-Falefa to feel more at ease. His throwing arm certainly appeared to be in good condition.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa remarked on his contentment about remaining with the team. He mentioned that he was excited and waiting for a call at six o’clock on Tuesday, but his name wasn’t mentioned. He shared that by 6:15, he was still waiting, but nothing happened. He felt a sense of relief and gratitude that he continued to be a part of the Yankees.

After the Yankees chose to stick with their current roster to secure a playoff spot, the players in the clubhouse understood that they needed to improve. After a calm trade deadline day, the team played a game at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday night. In their attempt to recover, Kiner-Falefa had a strong performance. He played in left field, got two assists by throwing the ball accurately, and managed to score a single hit. Kiner-Falefa prevented two runners from advancing to second base by throwing them out, which supported Gerrit Cole in preventing the opponents from scoring in the first inning.

Kiner-Falefa iron defense vs. Rays

In a season where his versatility has been a focal point, Isiah Kiner-Falefa displayed yet another skill on Wednesday. His strong throws that scalped two Tampa Bay players led Anthony Volpe to comment:

“I’m not surprised. He’s got a cannon.”

The player who used to be an infielder but now serves as a versatile utility player demonstrated his throwing ability as well. Kiner-Falefa, who was the regular shortstop last year and has spent more time in the outfield this year, achieved his first two career assists from left field in the Yankees’ 7-2 victory against the Rays in their home stadium. This game was particularly uncertain for Kiner-Falefa, as he wasn’t sure if he would still be a part of the team.

In the second inning, with two outs, Rene Pinto hit a ground ball past DJ LeMahieu and along the third-base line. Isiah Kiner-Falefa skillfully retrieved the ball from the wall in the foul territory and quickly threw it to second base. Gleyber Torres made a quick tag on the runner, Rene Pinto, who collided with Torres while trying to reach the base, resulting in the final out of the inning.

Later on, Manuel Margot also challenged Kiner-Falefa’s abilities, and once again, the Yankees’ player succeeded.

At the start of the fifth inning, Margot hit a ball into left field. However, Kiner-Falefa reacted quickly and reached the ball in time. Despite this, Margot attempted to advance to second base. But the second throw to Torres, who executed another excellent tag, reached well ahead of Margot and secured the out.

Kiner-Falefa commented that players tend to be aggressive in the game. He mentioned that he has played all positions except catcher and first base this year. The utility hero added that he would have likely made the same choice to run in those situations as well.

Before this season, Kiner-Falefa had never participated as an outfielder in a major league game. However, he has been out on the field for a total of 67 times so far this season. While he has been capable of playing in the outfield, his performance on Wednesday demonstrated a higher level of skill and ability.

Manager Aaron Boone commented on the significance of the assists, stating, “That was big.” He also mentioned that Isiah Kiner-Falefa’s overall performance has been impressive and that he’s been playing well in various aspects of the game, which is encouraging to see.

The transformation

At certain points in the season, Kiner-Falefa’s ability to play different positions didn’t guarantee him a spot in the lineup due to his struggles with hitting. However, it seems like those challenging times might be behind him now.

Batting from the right side, Isiah Kiner-Falefa was the leadoff hitter for the Yankees against left-handed pitcher Shane McClanahan. He managed to get a single and a walk in four turns at the plate, which improved his OPS to .698.

Over his last 37 games, the versatile player who can do many things on the field has an impressive batting average of .309. He has also drawn 15 walks, which is almost the same number as his 19 strikeouts during that time.

Throughout this season, Isiah Kiner-Falefa has showcased a wide range of skills, and now he’s adding to his repertoire by impressively using his strong arm to challenge and trouble the Tampa Bay Rays.

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