ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays' swarming offense has seen production from nearly every spot in the order at one point or another this season, a primary reason they have been able to narrowly outscore their opponents.
Lately, outfielder Matt Joyce has been in on the act after enduring a difficult stretch in July. Joyce hit just .222 in July but is hitting .349 in August and had homered three times in his last seven games entering Sunday's series finale with the Yankees. His Aug. 16 home run against the Blue Jays broke a career-long streak of 123 at-bats without a long ball, a drought Joyce said "felt like years."
Joyce has not undergone a major mechanical overhaul.
"It was just a couple small adjustments for me," he said. "I watched film and I was kind of out of position. I was getting away from my game. I wasn't balanced and wasn't swinging at the right pitches. The better you can control the strike zone, the more success you're going to have."
Joyce, who has been a streaky hitter throughout his career, said he is continually tweaking his approach even in his sixth year in the Majors.
"It's a learning process," he said. "I'm 29, but I still have those ups and downs. I keep learning and making adjustments. Hopefully, the downs even out."
Moore feels 'good,' hoping to return to Rays soon
ST. PETERSBURG -- Matt Moore felt fine Sunday, a day after the 24-year-old left-hander threw a simulated game.
"I feel good, just normal soreness," Moore said. "I feel like my chest and my back, that area, the cuff that gets normally sore, normal soreness today, so far. … I think it's a good sign just waking up and having normal soreness in the areas I'm used to."
Moore, who is trying to return from left-elbow soreness, is 14-3 with a 3.41 ERA this season. But he has not pitched in a game since July 28 against the Yankees in New York. He had hoped that the way he feels would prompt the Rays to let him make his return to a Major League game rather than having to make a Minor League start.
Moore did not get his wish.
He will throw a bullpen session on Monday followed by a start in a Minor League game on Thursday at, according to Rays manager Joe Maddon, a Minor League city to be named.
Maddon allowed that if Moore pitches Thursday and all goes well, "he'll be lined up after that," which would place him in the rotation to be the Rays' starter Sept. 3 in Anaheim.
Longoria heating up, feeling good at plate
ST. PETERSBURG -- July marked the worst offensive month of Evan Longoria's career, but it is safe to say he's back.
Longoria's three-hit performance Saturday was his first since June 19, and he had hit five home runs in nine games entering play Sunday.
Manger Joe Maddon said everything stems from Longoria's setup and unique batting stance, which he noticed was looking back to normal roughly two weeks ago.
"The way Evan begins everything is entirely different from anybody else I've ever seen," Maddon said. "Now, he's back to that. His feet are in the right spot. He's not rushing through the moment. All that stuff is back. With that, he's making better decisions. He's not swinging at bad pitches. He's not striking out. All that stuff is inter-connected. I think it began with his stance."
Maddon was even bold enough to suggest Longoria looks like the same Longoria that snuck the Rays into the playoffs on the last night of the regular season in 2011 with a home run to the left-field corner.
Longoria saw the same setup irregularities Maddon saw, but he said it is harder than it looks to correct them.
"We always talk about the stance when we look at the video," Longoria said. "I can look at that all day, but until I really feel like I'm doing it the right way, it doesn't matter. My swing is so feel-oriented. I can feel when it's bad. I can feel when it's good. If I see it on video, it doesn't matter. I haven't had to work too hard right now. I'm not thinking about anything, because it's going good. That's the way you want to be."
Longoria denied an opportunity to blame his July slump on the plantar fasciitis in his left foot that put him on the shelf for a brief time and said he only hopes to remain hot.
"There are so many ups and downs," he said. "I'm trying to ride this one out for the rest of the year and help the team be where we want to be on Sept. 30."
Rays not worried about lack of off-days
ST. PETERSBURG -- Monday was supposed to be an off-day for the Rays, but now it's the date for a makeup game with the Royals. That means the Rays will have just one off-day for the remainder of the regular season.
Given the number of off-days the team had in August (five), the general sentiment is that having days off is not necessarily a good thing.
"I don't know what our record is after off-days, but I feel like we don't play well after off-days," Desmond Jennings said.
For the record, the Rays' record on days following off-days is 2-10 this season.
"As much as your body needs off-days and breaks, once we get on a roll, I feel like an off-day kind of hurts us a little bit," Jennings said. "You need off-days. Your body needs them. Pitchers need them, position players need them. But you want to be in the lineup every day. It's going to be tough running out there every day, but it's something we've got to do."
Manager Joe Maddon allowed that having just one off-day for the remainder of the season is a bit of a challenge, but he added that he thought his team does better when such a challenge is presented.
"It's going to be up to us to rest guys at certain times, maybe a DH day or the appropriate day off," Maddon said. "Of course, when September comes, you're going to have the callups, a little bit more room to do different things with. But I don't know, like I've said, I thought we got the off-days at the right time. … So I'm not upset with the fact we have to through the rest of the way."