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Tampa Bay Rays' Elliot Johnson sets up key run with surprise two-out bunt

ST. PETERSBURG — Rays manager Joe Maddon said a lot of teams refrain from bunting with two outs for a hit.

"They always say, 'Hit a double, hit a double there, get in scoring position,' " Maddon said.

But to SS Elliot Johnson, with hot-hitting DH Johnny Damon hitting behind him, first base is scoring position.

Johnson helped spark the offense by hitting a perfect bunt single down the third-base line in the fifth before getting knocked in on Damon's double. Johnson said he noticed Cardinals 3B David Freese playing back, so he gave it a shot.

"I'm just trying to get on base," Johnson said. "If they're going to give it to me, I'm going to take it."

Though it was not a traditional play, Maddon and the Rays aren't afraid to take chances.

"There are so many things in 'the book' that I don't necessarily agree with," Maddon said. "One is not to bunt with two outs. Right there it paid off for us."

It was a good day for Johnson, whose two hits, including a double, matched his total since coming off the disabled list June 12 (2-for-29). Johnson said he has seen the ball well maybe once since returning, but getting a bit "lucky" Sunday could help.

"Hopefully," Johnson said, "I can continue to build off this and get it going."

ONE LAST SHOT: INF/OF Ben Zobrist, an All-Star in 2009, was excited just to have a chance this year, being one of five members on the "Final Vote" ballot.

"It's an honor just to be part of it," he said. "I know a couple years ago it was a blast for me to be a part of the game, and it's just such an honor to be considered one of the best in the game."

Fans can vote for Zobrist on mlb.com until 4 p.m. Thursday, and he's up against DH Victor Martinez (Tigers), OF Alex Gordon (Royals), 1B Paul Konerko (White Sox) and OF Adam Jones (Orioles). Zobrist said he wouldn't campaign, but he doesn't have to as the Rays and Diamondbacks partnered to push him and Arizona RHP Ian Kennedy for the final spot. Fans are encouraged to put #HelpZoGo when promoting on Twitter. And Maddon wore a "Zorilla" T-shirt in his postgame news conference.

CLOSING OUT: Maddon has also lobbied for RHP Kyle Farns­worth to be in the All-Star Game, and the veteran worked the final 12/3 innings Sunday for his fifth career save of five or more outs and second in the past nine days. It was his 17th save in 19 chances this season.

"He does it in a very economical way," Maddon said. "That's why I want to make my plea for this guy definitely (belonging) on the All-Star team this year, absolutely."

JOHNNY BE GOOD: C John Jaso picked up two doubles, giving him five among his eight hits in his past seven games after not recording an extra-base hit in his previous 16.

LINING UP: 3B Evan Longoria was given a day off. Maddon had planned on sitting Longoria either Friday, the day after the team's off day, or Sunday. He's expected to play today against the Twins.

PRICE IS RIGHT: LHP David Price enters today's start coming off two strong outings, including a no-decision against the Reds last time out in which Maddon felt he had his best fastball of the season.

"It was overpowering," Maddon said. "The hitters are going to tell you how quick it is, and when they've got to start laying back to try to catch up, that really tells you it's pretty lively. … He throws this hard two-seamer, it's almost ridiculous he's been able to throw 95-96 with that kind of movement."

GOING NATIONAL: The Rays finished interleague play 12-6, tied for their third-best record in franchise history. Longoria had 18 RBIs in interleague play, tying the club record held by Fred McGriff (2001) and Gerald Williams (2000).

Tampa Bay Rays' Elliot Johnson sets up key run with surprise two-out bunt 07/03/11 [Last modified: Sunday, July 3, 2011 10:04pm]
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