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Bartlett ties Rays record as streak hits 18

Bartlett ties Rays record with hit streak

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ST. PETERSBURG -- Jason Bartlett received a text message from a friend a few days ago that read: "Keep it going." He had no idea what it was referring to.

It should be obvious what the message meant, as Bartlett's hitting streak stands at 18 games after he notched a two-run single in Wednesday's 7-1 victory over the Phillies. With that hit, Bartlett enters Thursday tied Quinton McCracken for the Rays' club record, set in 1998.

Bartlett's hitting streak also resides only behind the Cubs' Derrek Lee's 21-game hitting streak, and it's the fourth-longest streak in the American League this season.

Just don't ask Bartlett about the streak.

"It's something I don't think about," Bartlett said. "When I start thinking about that, I'm going to put pressure on myself."

Bartlett may be playing naive, but others are taking notice of his hot bat. Despite a 19-game stint on the disabled list with a sprained left ankle, Bartlett has kept on hitting, maintaining a pace during his blistering start that's put him in the running for a spot in this year's All-Star Game.

And though Bartlett said his ankle still doesn't feel quite 100 percent, it apparently hasn't slowed his bat down a bit. Bartlett's .370 average leads the team and is the highest by a shortstop at this date in the season since Nomar Garciaparra's .390 mark for the Red Sox in 2000.

"Hitting, the ankle doesn't bother me," Bartlett said. "It's just the running part of it. It's frustrating getting out there, not being able to do everything I can do because of it. But the hitting part of it, it's fine."

Bartlett still spends a good chunk of his pregame time doing various rehab exercises and treatment drills, continuing to strengthen the ankle he injured against Florida on May 24. It remains an ongoing process, and he says that the ankle continues to feel better each day.

But while questions were raised about Bartlett's ability to continue his torrid start after the injury, he seems to be answering them.

"He's still swinging the bat well," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "He looks good on defense again. Running-wise, he's the same. He really hasn't missed much."

Bartlett said he doesn't even want to think about the streak, though, playing coy to questions about whether it's something of meaning to him. He has a simple reason for it: he wants to get hits every day anyway. Hitting, for Bartlett, is not solely about keeping a streak alive.

"When I start thinking about that, when I do get a hit, then it's like, 'Well, I'm done now,'" Bartlett said. "I don't want to think like that. I want to keep going, I don't want to give away at-bats. My goal is to try and get a hit every at-bat."

Zach Schonbrun is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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