Zobrist not letting up in '09's final week
Utility man on fire as Rays play out disappointing season
ST. PETERSBURG -- Ben Zobrist knows how to finish out a season.
Flash back to 2008 when Zobrist closed the season by hitting .455 with a double, a triple, four home runs and seven RBIs in the final week of the season, which earned him co-Player of the Week honors for the American League.
Zobrist again seems to be making his own statement to the effect that the season isn't over until it's over.
He has reached base safely via a hit or a walk in 23 of his past 24 games. During the series against the Orioles, Zobrist went 7-for-16 with three home runs and six RBIs, belting his 27th homer on Thursday to go along with a double. Over the weekend against the Rangers, he went 3-for-11 with six RBIs.
"I think it's just a coincidence," said Zobrist when asked about his penchant for ending the season on a high note. "I've just been hitting the ball well the last couple of days here. And last year, I got some opportunities the last week of the season to play a little bit. So I just think it's a coincidence; there's nothing about this week that's special."
Playing at this time of year can be tough for a player after his team is eliminated from contention. Checking out mentally can happen to even the best players who would love to see the season end once there is nothing to play for in terms of the postseason. Zobrist is definitely a player who has not checked out, which was especially evident Sunday against the Rangers, when he had four RBIs in his final two at-bats to lead to a 7-6 Rays win. Manager Joe Maddon has been impressed by Zobrist's approach with the season winding down.
"Everything he does is impressive," Maddon said. "I never see this guy waste a second with anything, whether it's an at-bat, on defense, on the bases. He's plugged in all the time, and to be as plugged in as he is right now just talks about his focus to play baseball. That's his agenda.
"He's not worried about a bunch of other stuff. He's a big family man. He's got a beautiful family, and then he comes here and plays baseball. He keeps it pretty simple, and I think that's a big part of his success."
Typical of Zobrist, he plays down compliments like the one he received from his manager.
"It's nice that people notice that you keep playing hard even though it feels like the season's over already," Zobrist said. "I don't know how much it sparks the team, but I just try and play that way all the time. If it does happen to spark the team now and then, great, that's just a byproduct of it. I just feel like it's a way you play the game all the time. That's something I was taught when I was a little kid -- to go hard all the time regardless of the score or the standings."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.