- Associated Press - Saturday, July 12, 2014

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) - Kevin Kiermaier’s youthful exuberance is becoming a major asset for the Tampa Bay Rays.

The rookie had three hits and drove three runs Saturday, helping right-hander Jake Odorizzi beat the struggling Toronto Blue Jays 10-3.

Matt Joyce also drove in three runs and Ben Zobrist had two RBIs. But it was Kiermaier who set the tone for a big day offensively, leading off the bottom of the first by stretching what should have been a routine single into a double.

The speedy outfielder tagged up and hustled to third when Zobrist’s flied to center field, then scored on Joyce’s sacrifice fly for a quick 1-0 lead.

The same type of aggressiveness of defense contributed to the 24-year-old playing Colby Rasmus’ sinking hit into a triple in the second inning, setting up Toronto’s first run.

Still, Rays manager Joe Maddon likes what he called Kiermaier’s “hair on fire” style.

“You’ve got to take the bad with the good sometimes,” Maddon said.

“The way he started that game, it set a tone for us,” the manager added. “That’s the kind of baseball I like to see us play. That’s the kind of baseball that’s made us successful. The more people we get to buy into that plan, the better off we’re going to be.”

Kiermaier appreciated the manager’s support.

“My thing is I want people to see the way I play and maybe come off contagious a little bit,” Kiermaier said.

“I guess you can call it my hair on fire, but it’s the only way I know - 100 percent, all out,” he added after boosting his batting average to .310 with eight homers and 24 RBIs in 47 games. “I look like an idiot sometimes, but for the most part I try to be under control with everything and know when to push the limit and when not to.”

Pitching a day earlier than scheduled because All-Star David Price was ill, Odorizzi (5-8) allowed three runs and six hits over 6 2-3 innings. The 24-year-old right-hander walked two and struck out seven to improve to 3-1 over his last five starts.

Kiermaier, Zobrist and Joyce - the 1-2-3 hitters in the Rays lineup - combined to drive in five runs during a six-run sixth inning. Pinch hitter Cole Figueroa drove in the first run of the inning, drawing a bases-loaded walk from Drew Hutchison (6-8) to snap a 2-2 tie.

The loss was the seventh in nine games for the second-place Blue Jays, who remained three games behind division-leading Baltimore in the AL East.

Despite its recent struggles, Toronto’s 49 wins are the most the Blue Jays have had before the All-Star break since 2006. A win Sunday would give them their first road series victory over Tampa Bay since April 2007, as well as 50 wins before the break for the first time since 1992.

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