Rays look to Zobrist for some pop
Utility man third on team in home runs and RBIs in 2009
MINNEAPOLIS -- A punchless offense turns its eyes to Ben Zobrist.
Probably not what the Rays envisioned three weeks ago, but in a search for answers, manager Joe Maddon is going to go with the hot hand. Zobrist made his 11th start of the season on Wednesday, one night after taking Twins closer Joe Nathan deep in the ninth inning to tie a game Tampa Bay eventually lost, 4-3.
"We have to give him a chance to get back out there," Maddon said. "We are having a hard time scoring runs. Let's see what he can do tonight."
Maddon mentioned Zobrist's stellar offensive numbers, including a .650 slugging percentage. Zobrist is batting .275 with a 1.006 OPS. Those are the numbers of a slugging corner infielder, not a jack-of-all-trades referred to in the media guide as a "super utilityman."
The Rays have been all over the map offensively. But one of the common denominators is that when they score runs, they win. When they don't, they lose. Tampa Bay has taken this axiom to the extreme, scoring 8.38 runs a game in eight wins and 2.1 runs a game in 13 losses. The team has slugged .638 in wins and .293 in losses. The Rays were trying to avoid losing their sixth straight series on Wednesday at the Metrodome.
"Everybody is trying to find their footing in the box right now," Zobrist said. "Obviously we haven't hit as well as we think we can. I think Joe is willing to shake things up a little bit."
"The way I see our record sitting right now, we just have not hit with the kind of consistency that we are going to have," Maddon said. "When you don't [hit] ... you can't play through any bad moments, because you just aren't scoring enough runs. As we get our offense rolling, obviously we are going to win games like last night."
Enter Zobrist, who is third on the team in home runs and RBIs despite limited playing time.
"This game is so up and down from one day to the next," Zobrist said. "I'm just trying to remain humble and make sure I'm doing my same work every day, regardless of whether I'm in the lineup or not."
Zobrist already has started at four positions this year (second base, shortstop, right field and center field). Since last season, he has played every position except catcher and first base. On Wednesday, he started in right field and batted sixth. Zobrist doesn't mind the super utility man moniker.
"Whatever gets me in the lineup, it doesn't matter what they call me," Zobrist said. "I definitely enjoy seeing the game from all the different angles."
Thor Nystrom is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.