Scorching Rays get rare Sunday off-day

Scorching Rays get rare Sunday off-day

Scorching Rays get rare Sunday off-day
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.