HOUSTON — For the first time in nearly a year, 3B Evan Longoria didn't play for the Rays.
Longoria, who had seen action in 131 consecutive games dating to June 26, 2009, was given a rare day off by manager Joe Maddon, who is hoping to keep the two-time All-Star fresh during a 20-games-in-20-days stretch.
Longoria, 24, felt under the weather when he woke up Sunday but would have been rested anyway. Though Maddon loves the fact he wants to play every day, he wanted to be prudent.
"We're not looking for the next Cal Ripken right now in regards to number of games in a row played," Maddon said. "I just want to keep him well and healthy and on the top of his game.
"I do believe if you were to permit him (to play 162 games), I bet he could. But I don't think it is in his best interest or ours."
Longoria, who said he didn't feel up to talking after the game, is expected to return to the lineup tonight against the Red Sox.
HOT CORNER: Hank Blalock made his first start at third Sunday, and though he knows his starts there will be few and far between thanks to Longoria, his arm strength was built up so well in spring and with Triple-A Durham that he feels like he did in his first few years in Texas. Maddon said he got a text message from Durham manager Charlie Montoyo when Blalock got called up that the two-time All-Star was playing Gold Glove-caliber third base.
While Blalock made a throwing error in the second inning after charging a chopper, he made several other good defensive plays, including two to his left, and hit a solo homer in the fifth to give the Rays the lead.
"Obviously with this team, third base is taken care of," Blalock said. "But on a day like (Sunday), it's up to me to fill in for Longo and keep up the good work he's been doing."
ON A ROLL: Ben Zobrist is getting into a groove. Zobrist, who went 3-for-6 with a homer and two RBIs Sunday, has reached base in seven straight games, raising his average to .309. Maddon said a key is Zobrist not chasing pitches out of the zone like he had earlier in the season.
"Obviously, I've had some really good things go well for me, having balls go through the hole or right down the line," Zobrist said. "But I definitely feel more comfortable at the plate and am using my hands better, and just in a better position to hit overall."
PEN NOTES: RHP Joaquin Benoit has struck out the past nine batters he has faced over three appearances, including three Sunday, when he said his slider was the best it has been all season. … Former Astros RHP Dan Wheeler, pitching in Houston for the first time since getting traded back to the Rays in 2007, said he was a little more geared up than usual. He gave up one run and two hits in the seventh inning. "It was still weird," he said. "I know there's not a lot of guys over there that I played with, but at the same time I spent a lot of time here and there was still some emotion."
WADING IN: RHP Wade Davis said he's hoping to be more efficient tonight against the Red Sox, having lasted six innings in just four of his eight starts.
"I need to get to contact a little bit earlier and when I get to 0-2, I need to put them away instead of getting to ball two," Davis said.
Davis gained some confidence in his last start against the Red Sox on April 16, when he gave up just one run and four hits in five innings.
"I think I know what I need to do to them," he said.
MINOR MATTERS: Class A Charlotte had a record-setting win Saturday night, beating Brevard County 5-4 in 15 innings, the longest game by innings and time (4 hours, 35 minutes) in club history.