ST. PETERSBURG -- Tampa Bay finally gets a day off on Sunday after what will be their 20th straight day with a game on Saturday.
Of course, there's still a pair of games against the Athletics to be played before the Republican National Convention makes its way to Tropicana Field to begin its festivities. With the way his Rays have been playing, manager Joe Maddon said the team may not even want the break.
"It just started falling into place," Maddon said. "Right now, they probably don't even want Sunday off. It gets to that point, too."
But many players have already been getting rest. For instance, Desmond Jennings was given Thursday off and Sam Fuld took his spot in the lineup. Maddon said he has the plan to do that throughout the series with Oakland.
"When we get everybody well, we can start giving guys days off like we're doing in these last three games of this homestand," Maddon said. "It's about keeping guys mentally fresh, too. It's not just about their bodies."
Tampa Bay has done very well in the stretch, going 14-3 in the first 17 games, including a winning streak of seven games and another that lasted five. Maddon said the way the club swung the bats has been one of the biggest factors.
"I think we've been swinging the bats good," Maddon said. "The balls have been scattered around the field, we've hit a couple homers too. ... Overall, just better at-bats."
The Rays are a Majors-best 16-5 in August, thanks in large part to this successful stretch. It's helped them close the gap in the division race, as well. On July 19, Tampa Bay was 10 1/2 games back of New York in the American League East, but had closed the gap to 2 1/2 entering Friday.
Sunday has rarely been a day of rest around baseball. The A's and Mariners each had a Sunday off at the beginning of the year after opening the season in Japan, but that's been it in 2012. In fact, that's the last since 1995, when the Padres and Cardinals were off because of a scheduling conflict with the NFL.
Cobb gets aggressive congrats from Moore
ST. PETERSBURG -- After pitching a complete game shutout against the Athletics on Thursday, Rays starting pitcher Alex Cobb got a warm greeting from the rest of the rotation.
That is, until Matt Moore congratulated him.
As both players jumped up in the air, Moore bumped into Cobb, forcing Cobb to fall over. But while he was on the ground, the righty was smiling, much to the relief of manager Joe Maddon.
"A little bit aggressive, I'd like them to tone it down just a little bit," Maddon said. "I want them all to be able to play for the rest of the year, but I do like the exuberance."
With how the season had gone for Tampa Bay to date, the last thing it needed was another player on the disabled list. But Cobb said he was fine and Maddon knew it due to the smile.
Cobb joked after the game that a possible cause was that Moore had been putting on a little extra weight. Maddon wouldn't say one way or another if it was true, though.
"I haven't noticed anything larger about Matty," Maddon said, joking.
Matchups could affect plans for Longo
ST. PETERSBURG -- A couple of lefties during the Rays' upcoming road trip could affect their plans for third baseman Evan Longoria, who is still recovering from a partially torn hamstring.
Longoria played his first game in the field Tuesday and has been alternating at third base and as a designated hitter since then. Depending on the matchup, Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said he might be more inclined to use him as a DH and put Jeff Keppinger at third base.
That would also, in theory, include Elliot Johnson at shortstop and Ryan Roberts at second, moving utility man Ben Zobrist to right field in place of Matt Joyce, who rarely plays against lefties. But with the way Zobrist has excelled at shortstop and Sam Fuld has done well at the plate in the outfield lately, it gives Maddon more options.
"If Longo's ready to play and he's able to play, I just want to research that first," Maddon said. "It really does set things up well all over the map. ... My point is you'll see the righties and less lefties during the course of that week, but I'm not sure."
He reaffirmed, though, that it all starts with how ready Longoria is to play the field.
"I'm willing to play that day by day," Maddon said.
• O.A.R. is performing a postgame concert after Friday's matchup with the A's. Saxophonist Jerry DePizzo is slated to throw out the first pitch. The first 10,000 fans are also slated to receive a David Price collectible T-shirt.
• Tampa Bay is on pace to set an AL record with 1,340 strikeouts. So far this season, the pitching staff has 1,034.
Greg Zeck is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.