Perhaps you were one of the 19,545 paid attendees at last night’s Rays vs. Rangers game. Maybe you watched it in the comforts of your living room. Whatever the case may be, shame on you if you didn’t see Ben Zobrist provide the offensive oomph to end the game; a two run blast to right. I know I’ve said it before and under different circumstances, but the walk-off Rays are indicative of a team that is hungry for a playoff berth. And with that win and an Orioles loss, Tampa Bay is a game closer to where they need to be. Both Jeremy Hellickson and Derek Holland were beasts on the mound last night, as were both the Rays and Rangers bullpens. But ultimately a pair of Mark Lowe mistakes would be the difference between a loss and a huge win.
It bears mentioning that the Rays defense was incredibly solid thanks to Hellickson, Kyle Farnsworth, and Fernando Rodney who largely kept the ball on the ground, and the infielders who incidentally turned a pair of big double plays in the first and second innings respectively. And who was in the mix for both of those pivotal double plays? Ben Zobrist. Can you say team MVP?
With less than 20 games to go, I’m inclined to call Zobrist the team MVP. Zo started the season on a cold streak, posting a .199 BA/.329 OBP/.377 SLG/.706 OPS/.305 wOBA/96 wRC line back in the beginning of June. However since, he’s put up great numbers, posting a .313 BA/.404 OBP/.527 SLG/.931 OPS/.406 wOBA line, with 10 homers. He’s also drawn 43 walks, while striking out only 46 times. Along with Jeff Keppinger, Zobrist has easily been one of the Rays most consistent hitters in 2012. And though he’s bounced around the middle infield and the outfield, which could be the reason he struggled with his fair share of errors prior to the All-Star Break, Zobrist has really settled in at short. Overall, Zobrist has a 4.6 WAR and a .977 fielding percentage. That is to say, he’s more than dependable on the left side of the infield.
Moving forward, tonight should be interesting. David Price has been shelved because of shoulder soreness, so the recently recalled Chris Archer will get the start. I have no qualms with Archer in there. We all saw what kind of stuff he has in his first two major league starts, prior to the All-Star Break. Though he went 0-2 in those two starts, his record had more to do with the lack of offense than anything else. Archer was impressive in those starts, posting a 3.86 ERA/.186 BAA/.250 BABIP/2.34 FIP/10.80 K9/1.54 BB9/7.00 KBB line. He’s also got that the Rangers have never seen him on his side. With Yu Darvish toeing the rubber against, I suspect that this game could be another low scoring affair.
9/8/12 Starting Lineup: Fuld LF, Upton CF, Zobrist SS, Longoria 3B, Joyce RF, Scott DH, Keppinger 1B, Roberts 2B, Molina C, Archer RHP
Noteworthiness: Desmond Jennings was shelved tonight because of lower back stiffness, though we could see him later in the game. Luke Scott will get the DH duties, batting sixth.