ST. PETERSBURG — The last time the Blue Jays won a series at Tropicana Field, Dioner Navarro was in his first season as the Devil Rays' starting catcher.
But Navarro, now Toronto's No. 1 catcher, helped snap that seven-year streak Wednesday night, setting the tone with a two-run homer in Tampa Bay's 7-4 loss.
"We got the monkey off our back," Toronto manager John Gibbons said.
The Blue Jays clinched their first series win at the Trop since April 2007, spanning 21 series. In two games, Toronto has outscored the Rays 15-6.
"They played better than we did the last two games, and deserved to beat us; it's that simple," manager Joe Maddon said. "They outplayed us."
It also further dimmed any lingering playoff hopes for the Rays (67-73), who are 9½ games out of the second AL wild-card spot with 22 to go.
Navarro, a Ray from 2006-10, including an All-Star appearance in 2008, continued to torment his former team in front of an announced crowd of 10,264. Of his 12 homers this season, four have come against Tampa Bay, as well as 12 of his 61 RBIs. Maddon intentionally walked Navarro to load the bases in the seventh. Said Maddon: "He's hot."
"When I help my teams, that's what matters," Navarro said. "It can be against the Rays, it could be against Houston."
It was another rough night for Rays starter Chris Archer, who allowed six runs on 10 hits in six innings. In his past two outings, Archer is 0-2 with a 11.70 ERA after going 1-0 with a 1.40 ERA in his previous four. Eleven of the 20 hits he's surrendered the past two games have come with two strikes. Seven came Wednesday, including the two-run homers by Navarro and Edwin Encarnacion.
"People are going to get hits with two strikes, but it's personally unacceptable how many they've gotten with two strikes the past two games," Archer said. "Just didn't execute, period. My job is to get people out and I didn't do a good job of that tonight."
Navarro, who hit a pinch-hit, two-run homer Tuesday night, opened the scoring Wednesday with one out in the second inning. Encarnacion's two-run blast in the fifth stood after a 3 minute, 21 second replay review.
The game was delayed 30 minutes in the fourth inning after some stadium lights went out due to a lightning strike at the 16th Street substation. "Begin to wonder, when you get the lights go out, this place is haunted," Gibbons said.
But it was the Rays offense that lacked a spark, with just three hits in the first five innings against right-hander Marcus Stroman.
"We came out flat," Maddon said. "Then rebounded, but it was too big of a deficit to overcome."
The Rays racked up four hits in the sixth, with Evan Longoria and James Loney hitting RBI singles. Longoria hit a towering two-run homer, his 18th of the season, in the eighth inning to cut the Jays' lead to 7-4.
"Got him back to classic Longo," Maddon said. "He's really playing at the top of his game."
But the Rays aren't, having lost 12 of 18 since returning to .500 (61-61) Aug. 15.
"It's tough," Archer said. "It (stinks)."
Contact Joe Smith at [email protected]. Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.