On a day where the Rays experience a 19 minute power outage due to a lightning strike in the area, it was only fitting that a late inning strike would give the Rays a new life. After Dan Wheeler and Troy Percival had done their best to screw up another fine effort for Matt Garza, Ben Zobrist went to work and does what Ben Zobrist does best; hit huge home runs. For the fourth time this season, Ben Zobrist hit a late inning pinch-hit home run that either tied the game or put the Rays ahead. I know R.J. has been a doubter, but now he is a witness.
James Shields, Matt Garza, and pray for rain or in the Rays case a power outage; this has been the story for the Rays rotation this season. That trend continued today as Matt Garza turned in another solid performance going 6.2 innings and giving up just two earned runs. He gave up seven hits and four walks while striking out eight. He left the game in the seventh with a 3-2 lead that was promptly ruined by Wheeler and Percival. After the chemical brothers were done helping the other team score runs, the Rays were down 5-3 after eight.
With the team down two runs in the ninth, Willy Aybar walked to lead off the inning. After an Aki Iwamura fly out, Gabe Kapler was due up. Kapler has started the past few games over Zobrist because of the flurry of left handed starters from the Oakland A's. However, with right handed Andrew Bailey on the mound, Maddon called upon "Weapon Z" and Bailey was just another lightning strike victim.
On the first pitch of the at-bat, Zobrist would foul off a cutter low and away from Bailey. At this point he was merely toying with his prey. Benzo would take the second pitch, a curveball, up and away for ball one. Bailey would foolishly try to come back with another cutter low and away except this one stayed up and caught more of the middle of the plate. Ben Zobrist made Bailey rue the decision to throw that pitch and smoked a line drive into the right field seats. Zorilla was freed, Weapon Z unleashed, late inning lightning had struck and the game was tied.
Following a double from Dioner Navarro and a walk by B.J. Upton, A.K.A the regression twins, the Rays would walk it off on a line drive hit to centerfield by Carl Crawford. After it looked like they were about to drop three of four to the lowly Oakland A's, the magical ninth inning earned the Rays a four game split and gave the Rays a 5-3 home stand.
On the season Zobrist is hitting .281 with eight home runs and an amazing 1.036 OPS. He is hitting a home run every 11 at-bats and now has 20 home runs in his last 287 at-bats (331 plate appearances). Even when I wrote the "Zobrist Code," I was still unsure of how legit this surge from Zobrist was; now I'm just amazed by it.