Zobrist, Niemann help Rays sweep Twins

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Also of note is the Cliff Lee-like performance by Rays starting pitcher Jeff Niemann. The towering Texan had faced the minimum number of hitters through five frames, throwing just 47 pitches during that span. Denard Span broke up Niemann’s no-hit outing with a leadoff single in the bottom of the seventh. Span eventually scored on a two-out base hit by Justin Morneau.

The Rays avenged that run in the top of the eighth. Zobrist—who else?—led off with a double. Advancing to third on a Kotchman grounder, Zobrist easily scored on a single by Rodriguez, retaking the five-run margin—and 5:1 ratio—to stay well-ahead of the Twins.

Stock photo
Juan Cruz took the hill for the Rays in the ninth after Joel Peralta threw a flawless eighth. Cruz caught Span and Jason Kubel looking with a sick backdoor cutter as his put-out pitch.

“Dominant” isn’t a word to be taken lightly in the context of major league sports, but good luck finding a better one to describe this double-header that sealed the series sweep. Zobrist picked up seven hits and 10 RBI between the two games. As ridiculous as his performance was, Niemann’s outing may have meant even more to this Tampa Bay team. His return to form can only mean great things, with all five members of the Rays’ rotation heating up.

The Rays are three games over .500 for the first time this year. The bats have come alive and starting pitchin’ is bitchin’. It’s a good time to be a Rays fan.

As a result of the quality starts by the Rays’ rotation, the bullpen will be fresh for the series against the LAA Angels. Ace lefty David Price (3-2, 3.19 ERA) is scheduled to start Friday night against the Halos’ Ervin Santana (0-3, 5.51); first pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m.

Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinTall.

click to enlarge Zobrist swinging a hot bat; stock photo - Kevin Tall
Kevin Tall
Zobrist swinging a hot bat; stock photo

Zobrist swinging a hot bat; stock photo
  • Kevin Tall
  • Zobrist swinging a hot bat; stock photo

Earlier in the day, Ben Zobrist led the Rays to a demoralizing 15-3 conquest of the Minnesota Twins with eight RBI in the first half of a day-night double-header.

Four hours later, he was at it again.

Picking up right where he left off, Zobrist victimized Minnesota call-up Anthony Swarzak with Matt Joyce on base after leading off the top of the second inning with a base hit; Big Ben’s bomb came on the 0-1 offering from the Minnesota righty.

John Jaso also took Swarzak deep in the top of the fourth—one of eight hits he allowed—with a monster shot to right field, adding another run for the seemingly tireless Rays.

One of those hits happened to be Zobrist’s leadoff double in the top of the sixth. Casey Kotchman moved Zorilla to third with his base hit and Sean Rodriguez grounded into a fielder’s choice, with Kotchman out at second and Zobrist crossing the plate to make it 4-0. This prompted Swarzak’s ouster from the affair in favor of reliever Glen Perkins. Jaso’s one-out double scored Rodriquez to give the Rays a five-run lead.

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