It's almost becoming a meme around here, but Ben Zobrist hit another late inning home run to put the Rays ahead. I've wrote about Ben twice this week and the Zobrist code is going strong. In 194 plate appearances this season, Zobrist has set career highs in home runs (13) and RBI (38). Going back to last year, he has hit 25 home runs in just 421 PAs. A few weeks ago there was a post slightly suggesting Zobrist for MVP, but right now is there anybody better American League? He is neck and neck with Kevin Youkilis for the OPS lead, but his versatility and above average defense has him atop the AL in WAR. It seems that the only question surrounding a trip to St. Louis is not whether he will be a part of the team, but what position will he be listed as. Last time I checked "late inning lightning" is not recognized as an official MLB position.
Zobrist's blast may have been the biggest and most important of the night, but the Rays exploded on the Washington bullpen for seven runs over the final three innings. The same bullpen that could cost Manny Acta his job, surrendered those seven runs on eight hits and one walk. Gabe Gross continues to produce with a two run shot that really put the game on ice. In the past week or so we've really see the Gabe of the day platoon start to come around. Gabe Kapler has homered off lefties in back to back games and since May 22nd Gross is hitting .311 with an OPS over .900 in 54 plate appearances. We all love Matt Joyce, but the Gabes are doing extremely well right now.
Seven of the Rays nine starters scored a run in tonight's game and everyone but Carl Crawford got a hit. While Zobrist, Gross and Pena led the way with homers, Reid Brignac collected three base hits for the first time in his major league career. We don't know if Brignac will be the one sent down when Jason Bartlett returns, but he is starting to show signs of being capable of hitting at the major league level.
Overall, it was a great night for the Rays sans the Jason Isringhausen injury. They got excellent starting pitching from Andy Sonnanstine. The offense pounded a weak bullpen and both the Blue Jays and Yankees lost. The Rays now sit two games above .500 for the first time this season, just one game out of third place and three games behind in the wildcard race. With James Shields on the mound tomorrow anything less than a sweep of the 16 win Nationals is unacceptable.