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Tampa Bay Rays top Toronto Blue Jays for best start ever

By
Greg Auman, The Sports Xchange
The Tampa Bay Rays are off to their best start ever after taking a weekend series from the struggling Toronto Blue Jays. Photo courtesy Tampa Bay Rays via Twitter
The Tampa Bay Rays are off to their best start ever after taking a weekend series from the struggling Toronto Blue Jays. Photo courtesy Tampa Bay Rays via Twitter

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Rays are off to their best start ever at 5-2, closing out a four-game series with an 7-2 win over the struggling Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday at Tropicana Field.

The Rays got a strong start from Jake Odorizzi (1-1), who gave up two hits in the first inning, then didn't allow another hit. Tampa Bay's bats did the rest -- the Rays had three home runs on Sunday, while the Blue Jays (1-5) have four total in their six games.

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Marco Estrada (0-1) took the loss for Toronto, which dropped three of four in Florida and now gets its home opener Tuesday against Milwaukee.

Toronto jumped ahead 2-0 in the first inning, getting a solo home run from Josh Donaldson (his second this season), then an RBI groundout from Troy Tulowitzki to score Jose Bautista, who had walked and advanced on a double by Kendrys Morales. After that, Odorizzi didn't allow another hit the rest of his six innings, and faced the minimum from the second to the sixth inning. Toronto didn't get another hit until Bautista's double with two outs in the ninth.

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The Rays' offense helped Odorizzi out, getting after Estrada in the third inning. Corey Dickerson hit his second home run of the season to cut the lead to 2-1, and after a Kevin Kiermaier triple and a walk to Brad Miller, Steven Souza hit a three-run homer to continue his strong start to the season. That gave the Rays a 4-2 lead, and they added a third home run, getting a solo shot from catcher Jesus Sucre in the fourth to make it 5-2.

The Rays extended their lead to 7-2 in the eighth. After two walks, no fielder covered a slow dribbler toward short for an infield hit, and Sucre followed with a two-run single to left field.

Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson left the game with right calf tightness after he tried to beat out a ground ball deep to third base in the sixth inning. Donaldson was slow coming off the field and was pulled from the lineup, with Ryan Goins replacing him the next half-inning.

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Souza and Tulowitzki had exchanged words in the second inning after Tulowitzki had a high tag on the back end of a double play, and both benches and bullpens cleared and took the field, though no punches were thrown. Souza was still talking back and forth with Jays catcher Russell Martin when he batted in the third, but he got the last word with the three-run home run to left field. Souza has come out of the gates strong, hitting .417 with a six-game hit streak, and six RBIs over the last three games.

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Kiermaier was ejected in the seventh inning after arguing a called third strike, his first career ejection.

Tampa Bay now goes on the road for its next seven games, starting with the New York Yankees' home opener on Monday. The Rays didn't post a winning record in any home stand until August last season but took five of seven in their first this year.

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NOTES: The Jays placed LHP J.P. Howell on the 10-day disabled list with left shoulder discomfort. Howell faced four batters in Friday's 10-8 loss, giving up two hits and two walks to take the loss. It's the former Rays pitcher's first trip to the DL since 2010. The Jays recalled RHP Dominic Leone, who had been sent down Saturday to make room for a fresh arm in an overworked bullpen. ... Counting Sunday's game, the next eight Rays games have seven different start times -- 1:10, 1:05, 7:05, 7:10, 4:05, 1:35 and 11:05. ... RHP Jake Odorizzi's start for the Rays on Sunday was the 100th of his career. He's already sixth in franchise history in career starts but well behind all-time leader James Shields (217).

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