Ben Zobrist Crushes, Jeff Niemann Cruises, Rays Win 4-1

By Jove! Look at that man's meaty arm!

The renaissance of Jeff Niemann continued today as the Rays (63-54) beat the Kansas City Royals (49-69) by a score of 4-1. One might say the Rays are officially hot now, owning an pleasant 7-3 record in the month of August.

Niemann hit trouble in the first, but was able to dance out of too much damage, allowing only one run despite two Royals singles and a walk. With the Royals leading 1-0 early, Niemann quickly locked it down.

In typical NyQuil fashion, Niemann eased in and out of trouble, allowing a few singles here and there, but always escaping unharmed. In the sixth, the Royals finally put together a legitimate threat, loading the bases on -- you guessed it -- singles only to have Alex Gordon strike out and end the inning.

Meanwhile, the Rays' speedy outfielders kept their hot hitting hot. Desmond Jennings hit his third triple of the season (already?!) and Sam Fuld doubled in the bottom of the fourth, but Ben Zobrist took the cake and ate it by himself, hitting a double and a key, two-run triple in the third that put the Rays up 2-1.

Jennings' triple led to another run on an Evan Longoria sac fly in the fifth, putting the Rays up 3-1. Then, in the eighth, Sean Rodriguez singled Zobrist home for the final score, 4-1.

Notes:

  • Sean Rodriguez had a rangy, over-the-shoulder catch in the top of the third. His defense continues to impress and improve, but, man, will the power he showed in the minors ever come?
  • Fortunately, Niemann went 6 and 1/3 innings, so the Rays were saved from needing to use their Failpen, instead using their one-two combo of Joel Peralta and Kyle Farnsworth to close out the game (J.P. Howell faced one batter in the seventh, but left after giving up yet another single). Kyle Farnsworth: Best Rays reliever signing ever?
  • The Rays will be in New York tomorrow to start three game series. I don't mean to jinx it or anything, but a sweep there means the Rays are just 5.5 back from the Yankees with a month and a half left to play. Maybe it could happen? Who knows?
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