ST. PETERSBURG -- Ben Zobrist is coming around at the plate.
On the just-completed road trip, he had eight hits -- seven of which went for extra bases -- and his 11 RBIs led the team.
While Zobrist is still 22-for-113 (.195) in 36 games since missing six games (July 28-Aug. 3) due to lower back stiffness, which dropped his average from .306 on to .252 entering Monday night's game, he feels as though he's headed in the right direction.
"This is the best I've felt all year with my swing," Zobrist said.
Rays manager Joe Maddon pointed out that Zobrist isn't missing his pitch right now.
"If it's a pitch that he could really deal with, it's not being taken, it's not being fouled off -- it's going this way," said Maddon, pointing toward the outfield. "I think earlier in the season, a lot of pitches that he could really drive he was either taking or fouling back. So that can speak to mechanics, and I know he's been working with [hitting coach Derek Shelton] a bit.
"But more than anything, I think it's a proverbial confidence thing right now. He's feeling good now. He's seeing the ball well now, obviously. Now when he sees a pitch he likes, it's going that way [to the outfield], and he's laying off the borderline pitches. There's not as many check swings or chasing outside the zone."
Maddon said he began noticing a positive change in Zobrist beginning in the Baltimore series, the first leg of the road swing.
"I've kind of liked his at-bats," Maddon said. "... For the most part, he's been looking like this for several weeks now."