Ben Zobrist becomes fifth Tampa Bay Rays player to reach 40 doubles

BOSTON — Ben Zobrist makes it sound so simple.

How, he was asked, does he hit so many doubles, adding two Wednesday to push his major league-leading total to 40?

"Get jammed, hit it down the line and run hard," he said.

Zobrist became the fifth Ray to reach the 40-double plateau, joining Aubrey Huff (a team-record 47 in 2003), Evan Longoria (46 in 2010, 44 in 2009), Julio Lugo (41 in 2004) and Jorge Cantu (40 in 2005).

"I really don't have any explanation for that," Zobrist said. "If I smell it, I'm going for it right now.

"I got jammed on a pitch, and I kept it fair on that last one. I feel like I've had a lot of those this year where I just got enough of it where it's just down the line. I've hit some hard, too, but I've had a lot of those other ones, too, and I think that's where that higher number comes from."

Manager Joe Maddon added that Zobrist's aggressiveness out of the batter's box, thinking double right away, is also a factor, as is his speed.

"I think it's a little bit of all that," Maddon said. "And being a switch-hitter might not hurt him, either, being on the positive side all the time."

Zobrist's 61 extra-base hits (15 homers, six triples) are second in the majors. Yankees CF Curtis Granderson homered and doubled his first two times up Wednesday to pass him.

PITCHING IN: Maddon said the Rays have yet to decide whether RHP James Shields or RHP Jeff Niemann will come back from Tuesday's complete game on regular rest and face Seattle on Sunday, and who will get the benefit of an extra day's rest but have to face Detroit ace Justin Verlander on Monday.

"I don't think they know about Verlander yet," Maddon said, laughing.

Since both threw 114 pitches, there wouldn't seem to be much difference. "We're just checking everything right now," Maddon said. "It's about what happens after that, also."

The next three starts for both spots line up the same — at Toronto, at Texas and vs. Texas. The Rays have a Sept. 8 off day, allowing further tweaking, before hosting Boston.

STREAKING: Niemann tied a team record by winning his seventh straight decision. He already had a share of the mark, having done so Oct. 3, 2009-June 9, 2010, along with Wade Davis (July 8-Sept. 11, 2010) and Mark Hendrickson (July 21-Sept. 25, 2005).

FOR EVERY ACTION: C Kelly Shoppach was hit twice by pitches Wednesday, and Sean Rodriguez got hit twice Tuesday. After the Rays hit Red Sox OF Darnell McDonald in the seventh Wednesday, he slid late and spikes up into Zobrist on a forceout at second.

What did Maddon think of the play? "It appeared to me that he did not like being hit in the hip," Maddon said. "(Our guy) got hit twice. We didn't cry."

HISTORY LESSON: Tuesday's nightcap was the first game with a triple play and a steal of home since an Aug. 14, 2004, Phillies-Astros game, when Houston's Mike Lamb stole home and Philadelphia's Todd Pratt hit into a 5-4-3 triple play.

MISCELLANY: The Rays are 10-4 in Boston since the start of the 2010 season. … DH Johnny Damon had two hits to move past Tampa's Gary Sheffield for 64th place on the all-time list at 2,690. … Former Rays LF Carl Crawford is 3-for-27 against his old mates. … RHP Alex Cobb is scheduled to have season-ending surgery today in Dallas to remove a blockage in the subclavian vein near his top right rib. … SS Reid Brignac, after being washed out Sunday, made his first start since returning from the minors and was 0-for-4. … Maddon said OF Justin Ruggiano, on the DL retroactive to Aug. 7 with left knee bursitis, is "really close" to starting a rehab assignment.

Ben Zobrist becomes fifth Tampa Bay Rays player to reach 40 doubles 08/18/11 [Last modified: Thursday, August 18, 2011 12:00am]

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