Just like the Cubs, Zobrist on a tear

May 11th, 2016

CHICAGO -- Cubs manager Joe Maddon saw Ben Zobrist when he's good during their days together with Tampa Bay, and right now the second baseman is really good.

"He doesn't look 34, or whatever he is," Maddon said following the Cubs' 8-7 win over the Padres on Tuesday. "He's playing at the highest level I've ever seen him play. I've seen Zo really good, and he's really good right now."

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Named the National League Player of the Week for last week along with Mets pitcher Bartolo Colon, Zobrist hasn't stopped hitting. He had four hits, including a pair of RBI singles, in the Cubs' win for his 10th career game with at least that many. He's reached base safely in 18 consecutive games, his longest such streak since 2011, and has hit safely in eight straight games, batting .448 in that stretch.

What's he doing?

"A lot of it is just being ready to hit," Zobrist said. "Me and [hitting coach John] Mallee, we're doing some things in the batting cage early, some routine things that I wasn't doing earlier, some flip toss. It's just some cues mentally that I wasn't thinking about before.

"Once you feel mechanically sound, you start seeing the ball better. It's preparation and a feel. Once you feel good and your swing feels right, you can start seeing the ball better instead of trying to chase pitches."

There may be some mechanical tweaks, but Zobrist said that everybody makes adjustments. His preparation and the routine are key.

"I'm just glad he's on my side now, more than anything," said Jon Lester, who started on Tuesday and earned the win. "He was always a tough at-bat in Tampa. When you have guys who can not only hit for power but can extend at-bats, it makes it very difficult to get those guys out. He doesn't strike out a lot, he walks a ton, it seems like he's always putting the ball in play.

"I think he's hit second or third and fifth and sixth for us as well," Lester said. "You have a guy who can switch-hit and do that in different parts of the order, it makes our lineup that much longer and makes that pitcher work even harder."

Zobrist has been a key part of the Cubs' eight-game winning streak, and as a veteran, he is also keeping the hoopla around the hot start in check.

"We're excited, but it's still early May, and we have to keep that in our minds and recognize that every game is going to be tough and we have to battle every game," he said.

Zobrist finished the 2015 season with the Royals and was fortunate to get a World Series ring. There are a lot of folks in Wrigleyville eager to see the Cubs in the World Series. Any comparisons?

"It's too early to talk about things like that," Zobrist said. "We're staying focused on today."