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Zobrist's two-run home run provided the winning runs in the Rays' 2-1 victory over the Blue Jays
Okay, that title is admittedly over-dramatic. Still, in July of 2008, Zobrist hit a home run that led the Rays to a very important victory, even if this particular win doesn't seem as important in hindsight.
So the Rays' surprising run to the 2008 AL Pennant has been well documented, but not everyone remembers that right before the All-Star break, they hit a bit of a rough patch. A major rough patch, actually—the Rays lost seven games in a row heading into the break, dropping behind the Red Sox in the AL East standings.
One easy way to lose baseball games is to not score enough runs, and the Rays were certainly not scoring many runs during their losing streak (just 13 over the course of the seven games).
This offensive slump continued into the first game after the break against the Blue Jays, when Ben Zobrist came to bat with a runner on first and two out in the bottom of the seventh inning, with the Rays trailing 1-0.
Zobrist has turned into a very good player (and that may be understating it), but at this point, he had yet to become an everyday player and he hadn't yet shown the hitting prowess he would display in coming seasons.
But in this at-bat, he would give a sign of things to come, hitting a two-run homer off of A.J. Burnett to give the Rays a 2-1 lead that would hold up to be the final score. The Rays would go on to win the following night, their unlikely run to the World Series back on track.
Would the Rays still have made the World Series if Ben Zobrist didn't power them to victory?
Very possibly: They ended up winning the AL East by two games over the Red Sox, so theoretically, removing one win from their record wouldn't have had much of an impact on how things played out over the course of the year.
Still, it's worth noting that this seven-game losing streak marked the first time the Rays had encountered serious adversity in 2008. If Zobrist doesn't homer and the Rays lose this game, do the Rays continue to struggle? Does the losing streak take a mental toll on a young team not used to encountering adversity in the midst of a playoff chase?
The Rays may have been fine and still gone on to win the AL East and make the World Series even if they didn't beat the Blue Jays in this game.
But they may not have been.
Thanks to Ben Zobrist, the Rays got their season back on track and didn't have to deal with any of the questions that stem from losing eight games in a row.