ANAHEIM -- The Rays went through a period last season when they employed a six-man rotation, much to the chagrin of the members of the five-man rotation.
"They hated it, they absolutely hated it," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
That group, headed by the rotation's top two starters, David Price and James Shields, is happy that no such tactic has been employed this season.
"Yeah, I'm glad we haven't gone to a six-man rotation this year," Shields said. "It didn't really work out for us too well while we were in the six-man rotation, but at the end of the year, we were still feeling fresh."
Price added: "I mean, I guess there definitely is a time and a place for it. I felt like we've been pretty effective. I think I'm on pace to have 32 starts this year, and I think I had 34 last year, so if we went to a six-man rotation, I might only have 30. We all want to get out there every five days as much as possible, and being on a five-man rotation allows us to do that."
Price said the time in between starts felt like forever when they were in a six-man rotation.
"Sometimes we'd have two off-days in between starts," Price said. "That turns it into an eight-man rotation. You don't even throw for a week. That's definitely stuff they try to stay away from, even if it's the All-Star break. They don't want you to sit out too long.
"Being a starting pitcher, I feel, is all about routine. And your body definitely knows when it's the fifth day and the sixth day. We enjoy pitching on the fifth day. Throw every five days. That's what we've built our bodies up to do, and our bodies definitely know when it's that time."
Jeff Niemann [right fibula fracture] was scheduled to make the first of his final two rehab starts on Sunday before returning to the team. What will the Rays do when he returns? Could they employ a six-man rotation?
"With Niemann coming back, we can get creative if we want to," Maddon said. "We haven't decided anything."
Comeback vs. Halos reminiscent of Game 162
ANAHEIM -- The fans watching at home Saturday night weren't the only one's thinking that the Rays' come-from-behind victory against the Angels had a similar feel to last season's memorable Game 162, when Tampa Bay beat the Yankees, 8-7, on the final day of the season and clinched the American League Wild Card.
Third baseman Evan Longoria noted, "There were some guys, you know, making mention of it during the game."
Outfielder Sam Fuld was one of those players, and he said "the similarities were pretty amazing."
"I came up with the bases loaded when we were down 8-0 [Saturday night], and 7-0 in Game 162. Then, Longo hitting the home run later in the inning to put us just down by one, then having a pinch-hitter hit a huge home run, Carlos [Pena] and Dan Johnson," Fuld said. "Pretty freaky. I said it at the time, and everyone was like, 'You're right. The similarities are amazing.'"
Rays manager Joe Maddon was asked if the thought crossed his mind that Saturday night's game resembled Game 162.
"It did not," Maddon said. "When it was brought up afterward, I'm like, 'How could I not?' But I was pretty mentally involved in that game last night. I never put it together. Then, of course, Longo's homer, makes sense, big hit by [Ben] Zobrist. ... It was lost on me; I didn't go there mentally."
Maddon might not have locked in to the similarities to Game 162, but he did speak of his team's resolve.
"I think this whole road trip has been kind of awkward," Maddon said. "We've lost two really tough games -- a ninth-inning game [the 3-2 loss in Seattle on Tuesday night], and getting perfected [on Wednesday by Seattle's Felix Hernandez], and still being able to play at this level.
"I think it's a real testament to our guys. And when you want to talk about culture, the one thing I appreciate and respect about the way we do things is that we don't let the previous day bother us in a negative way."
One thing was certain about Saturday night's win, it resonated inside the Rays' clubhouse.
"It was a pretty big game for us, as far as games in August go," Zobrist said. "It's probably the biggest game in August that we've won that I can remember."
Longoria, Zobrist providing boost on offense
ANAHEIM -- B.J. Upton's offense of late has been a sign that better things can be expected of the Rays' offense. But add in what Ben Zobrist and Evan Longoria are doing, and there is reason to start believing that the team can produce plenty of runs the rest of the season.
Several players called Zobrist's three-run double during Saturday night's 10-8 win against the Angels the biggest hit of the game. After a slow start this season, Zobrist entered Sunday's action hitting .262 with 30 doubles. Last season, Zobrist finished with 46 doubles.
"Doubles are big," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "If you hit a double you're in scoring position the moment you arrive at the bag -- there's no moving the runners, there's no hit and run. You're at second base and in scoring position. That's where a double is so attractive."
Even though Maddon is clearly impressed with Zobrist's double count, Zobrist himself uses another measuring stick to gauge his performance.
"If I'm going to look at numbers, or extra-base hits, I'm looking more at slugging percentage overall," Zobrist, who has a .460 slugging percentage, said. "The doubles, I think, are just something that happens. For me, the last couple of years they've just come easier than they have before that. But I don't really measure anything by the amount of doubles I have. Last year was the first time I actually thought about doubles at all."
Meanwhile, Longoria's home run Saturday night went to right-center field, which is a particularly good sign for the Rays.
"[Longoria] hitting the ball to right-center is really attractive when he's doing that that," Maddon said. "... When he's doing that, that usually means his swing is in pretty good order."
Longoria does feel pretty good about his swing right now.
"The past couple of days my work in the cage and at batting practice has finally just been starting to show some signs of my old swing and the way I want things to go," Longoria said.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.