Game 59: Zobrist Breaks Out With 2 HRs, Moore K’s 9 as Rays Thump Marlins

By Robbie Knopf

Some days everything goes right. Saturday was not one of those days for the Rays. But it was pretty darn close.

The Miami Heat were playing Game 7 versus the Celtics in Miami on Saturday night. As a result, many fans who would have attended the Marlins game went to American Airlines Arena. So surprisingly, the Rays actually had a majority or close to it in a visiting ballpark. Maybe that exhilarated the Rays just a little bit.

The Rays slammed Carlos Zambrano, knocking him out after just 2.1 innings. They scored 5 in the second inning, with Elliot Johnson blooping a 2-run single, Jose Molina singling a run, and then in his first career plate appearance, Matt Moore contributed a perfect safety squeeze bunt to plate a fourth run. Desmond Jennings beat out an infield single to score one more run before the inning was out. And then in the third inning, Ben Zobrist nailed down the final nail in the coffin for Zambrano, slamming a 2-run homer to end Zambrano’s night. Zambrano allowed 7 runs on just 5 hits in 2.1 innings.

Zobrist hit another 2-run homer in the 5th inning off of Chad Gaudin to give the Rays a 9-0 lead. Unfortunately, things would come apart a little bit for Moore in the 6th. The game was completely out of hand, but Moore allowed a walk, a line drive single to Jose Reyes, a little groundball single to Giancarlo Stanton to plate a run, and then he finally made a real mistake pitch, leaving a fastball down the middle for ex-Ray Justin Ruggiano, who slammed a 3-run homer. That took the luster out of Moore’s outing, but he was truly fine. He went 6 innings, allowing 4 runs on 5 hits, striking out 9 while walking 2. He even forced a 5-1 groundout-to-flyout ratio. If anybody actually cares, by FIP he should have allowed 2.2 runs and by xFIP he should have allowed 2.0 runs. Of course those two stats mean absolutely nothing, but Moore got unlucky that his one bad pitch came with 2 runners on. Moore continues to turn in encouraging outings and hopefully it will be reflected a little bit more in his ERA (currently 4.59) sooner rather than later.

For good measure, the Rays tallied 3 runs in the 8th on a Jose Molina 2-run double and a third run that scored on a double play ball with a Wade Davis single in between. Davis is, no joke, the Rays best hitting pitcher, entering the game with a .333 career batting average, although the sample size was a little small at 1 for 3, although he also had 2 sac bunts. Now he’s at .500. Considering who they have on the bench these days, the Rays should consider using him as a pinch-hitter (uhhhh, no). Anyway, in the 9th inning, Hideki Matsui doubled and scored on an Elliot Johnson RBI single to give the Rays a 13-4 lead and that would be the final. Moore (3-5) earned the win, while Zambrano (4-4) took the loss. The Rays got huge production from 6-7-8 in their order, with Ben Zobrist going 3 for 4 with 2 homers, 4 RBI, and 4 runs scored, Elliot Johnson going 4 for 5 with 3 RBI and 2 runs scored, and Jose Molina going 2 for 4 with a double, 3 RBI, and 2 runs scored. That’s one way to break some slumps. The Rays improve to 34-25 on the year, which is (get this) the best record in the American League. I thought this team was terrible? What happened? The Rays go for the sweep on Sunday at 1:10 PM with James Shields opposing Anibal Sanchez. It hasn’t all been smooth sailing for the Rays of late, but there’s nothing serious to worry about.