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Zobrist starts in left, stars on defense for Rays

ST. PETERSBURG — Ben Zobrist didn't even look at the lineup card when he walked into the clubhouse Monday, expecting to be playing second base.

It wasn't until about an hour before the game that Zobrist found out, from infield coach Tom Foley, that he'd be making his second start of the season in leftfield due to the shuffling with CF Desmond Jennings hamstring injury.

"I was like, 'Okay,' " Zobrist said.

Zobrist, the versatile All-Star, then tied a club record with two assists in the 5-4 victory over the Orioles, throwing out Alexi Casilla at the plate in the seventh and C Matt Wieters at third in the eighth.

"Zo's defense won (Monday's) game — period," manager Joe Maddon said.

In the seventh, Zobrist charged RF Nick Markakis' single and made a one-hop throw to C Jose Molina, who blocked the plate and made the tag. "It was a perfect throw, it was right on the money," Molina said. "It was huge."

In the eighth, Wieters led off with a liner to the wall and tried for a triple. Zobrist collected the ball and threw a strike to SS Yunel Escobar covering third to get him. "When I can throw guys out, that's fun," Zobrist siad.

MEDICAL MATTERS: Jennings has what the team is calling a mild hamstring strain but is expected to return before the end of the regular season.

Maddon said Jennings will be evaluated daily with the hope of getting him back as soon as possible, but he acknowledged that with Jennings being a speed player, they will be cautious in making sure he is fully healthy.

"We don't think it's anything awful," Maddon said.

CF Sam Fuld started in Jennings' place. Jennings said he felt the same as he did Sunday but is confident he'll return this week.

FIRST START: 2B Tim Beckham was excited and grateful for his first big-league start, saying he planned to "seize the moment." Beckham, the 2008 top overall pick, had a sacrifice fly in the second for his first career RBI and started a two-out rally in the fourth with a single, scoring on Molina's double. However, Beckham said it was his fault in hesitating in the eighth on LF Nate McLouth's bunt, which rolled into rightfield for a double. "I should have went for the ball," he said.

COBB HONORED: RHP Alex Cobb was named American League player of the week. He went 2-0, 1.65 in two starts to claim his first weekly honor, with both wins coming against wild-card contenders, the Rangers on Monday and Orioles on Saturday. "If you could ask me to pick a time to get that award, it'd be right now," Cobb said.

PITCHING IN: RHP Chris Archer gave up four runs and five hits in 41/3 innings while striking out seven. Archer said the only thing he was upset about was his pitch selection to 1B Chris Davis on his two-run homer in the fourth. "I did my best," he said. Archer is 1-2 with a 4.88 ERA in five starts in September.

WAIT OVER: As expected, RHP Jesse Crain (shoulder) was activated from the 60-day disabled list. Crain, acquired from the White Sox on July 29, had been on the DL since late June. "It's been a long time coming," Crain said. Maddon said they'll initially use Crain in less-pressurized situations and for only 20 pitches. Crain warmed up in Monday's game but didn't appear. To make room for Crain, RHP J.D. Martin was designated for assignment.

TROP TALK: The Rays drew 17,830 to the home finale, making the season attendance 1,510,300, lowest since 2007. The Rays have the majors' lowest average (18,646); the Marlins have 65,217 fewer total but six home games left.

MISCELLANY: Maddon said RHP Jeremy Hellickson won't automatically go back into the rotation and they haven't decided between him and rookie RHP Jake Odorizzi for Friday's start. … LHP Enny Romero, who came up big with a spot start Sunday in his debut, will stick around and could be used in relief later this week. … Saturday's game against Toronto has been picked up by Ch. 13 and remains a 1:05 p.m. start.

 Ben Zobrist snags a Manny Machado grounder up the middle for the first out in the ninth during the Tampa Bay Rays game against the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013 in St. Petersburg, FL.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

Ben Zobrist snags a Manny Machado grounder up the middle for the first out in the ninth during the Tampa Bay Rays game against the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013 in St. Petersburg, FL.

Zobrist starts in left, stars on defense for Rays 09/23/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 24, 2013 11:15am]
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