ST. PETERSBURG -- Matt Joyce received a little bit of a surprise when he arrived to the ballpark.
Manager Joe Maddon slotted Joyce in the leadoff spot for Wednesday's game against the Royals -- an unfamiliar role for the All-Star.
"I don't remember the last time I hit leadoff," Joyce said. "I'm pretty sure I haven't done it in the last couple of years. It's just one of those things that Joe has a feeling with, and I guess that's what makes him one of the best managers in the game. A lot of times he'll go off his instinct, what he feels and what he knows."
Joyce went 3-for-5 with two runs scored and a solo homer in the Rays' thrilling 8-7 victory after a five-run ninth inning.
Tampa Bay's regular leadoff hitter, Desmond Jennings, was not in the starting lineup but delivered a pinch-hit RBI single in the eighth. Maddon expects the rookie, who has played in every game since being recalled from Triple-A Durham on July 23, to return to the starting lineup on Thursday.
"I just wanted to give Desmond a day off, period," Maddon said. "Playing on the turf, I think it's starting to affect his legs a little bit."
In steps Joyce, who will provide a little power at the top of the order with his 15 homers. But he has been scuffling a bit lately with just seven hits in his past 31 at-bats.
Maddon made a similar move to this one earlier in the season, when he placed a slumping Evan Longoria in the leadoff spot.
"I thought this was the perfect chance to throw Matt up there to work the same kind of at-bats that we asked Longoria to work," Maddon said.