Thursday, January 18, 2018
Sports

Rays' Zobrist has tough game at bat, in field

BOSTON — Ben Zobrist has been the Rays' most versatile player all season, and one of their most valuable.

But Zobrist had an all-around rough night in a 7-4 loss to the Red Sox on Saturday in Game 2 of the American League Division Series.

The All-Star second baseman was taken out on a hard slide by Shane Victorino in the third inning, made a rare error in the fourth and came up empty in two key situations at the plate.

Zobrist, who went 0-for-3 with a walk and two strikeouts to break his nine-game postseason hitting streak, said it has just been a tough series for the team overall.

"It's just the way the game goes sometimes," Zobrist said. "You can't force things, and sometimes you can't control how the ball bounces and different things. We just haven't gotten the breaks that we wanted to in the first two games."

Zobrist played Gold Glove-caliber defense this season, leading American League second basemen with a .993 fielding percentage, making only four errors. But Zobrist's errant throw in the fourth extended the Red Sox rally and eventually led to a run. With no outs and a runner on first, Jonny Gomes hit a grounder to Evan Longoria, who had trouble getting the ball out of his glove before getting it to Zobrist at second. Zobrist, however, threw the ball high, hitting the facing of the Red Sox dugout.

Zobrist said he never had a good grip on the baseball and didn't know if he could have thrown out Gomes anyway. Gomes advanced to second on the error and scored on Stephen Drew's triple.

"I was trying to do too much," Zobrist said.

First baseman James Loney pointed out that Mike Napoli was coming hard into second as Zobrist was throwing; Victorino had slid into Zobrist the previous inning to break up a double play, knocking him to the ground.

"He's been doing great all year," Loney said of Zobrist. "The runner was getting on him a little bit. But (Zobrist) is a different guy; I like playing with him."

In the fifth, Zobrist had a chance to make up for the mistake, batting with two on and two out and the Rays down two runs, but he struck out looking on a 3-and-2 pitch from starter John Lackey.

"I thought it was a ball, obviously, that's why I took it," Zobrist said. "But (plate umpire Eric Cooper) saw differently."

In the seventh, Zobrist came up again in a big spot, with two on, but he grounded into an inning-ending double play. Zobrist wasn't alone, as the Rays went 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position, including hitting into three double plays.

"We had our opportunities," Zobrist said. "We just didn't make good on enough of them."

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