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Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Wade Davis (again) struggles in first, (again) recovers

ST. PETERSBURG — Now if only RHP Wade Davis could figure out the first inning.

For the second consecutive start, the Rays pitcher settled in Thursday following a rocky opening inning, allowing three runs over 7⅔, tying his longest outing of the season.

"I just kept attacking," he said.

It certainly didn't look good when Davis walked two of his first three hitters and loaded the bases with no outs. But after allowing just two runs, including inducing a double play, he retired the next 12 hitters. That set the stage for a quality start while helping enable the Rays' come-from-behind 7-6 victory in 12 innings.

"I thought Wade Davis had great stuff," manager Joe Maddon said. "Even after those two runs in the first inning, he looked really good to me, and I was really hoping he could pitch eight innings. It looked like he definitely had it in him."

It was similar to Davis' last start, July 28 in Oakland, when he gave up five first-inning runs before throwing five shutout innings in picking up the win. His ERA in the first inning is 7.65, 3.96 in the others.

"I just kept going," Davis said. "Kept doing what I was doing and kept executing."

GO GOMES: RHP Brandon Gomes will likely always remember his first big-league win. He pitched a scoreless 12th Thursday, including striking out Jays slugger Jose Bautista.

Gomes, who was the last reliever left, threw a career-high three innings in the Rays' 16-inning loss to the Red Sox on July 17.

"You've always got to be ready," Gomes said. "You never know what can happen."

Said Maddon: "This kid has been fantastic in literally dire moments where there's nothing left behind him. He goes out there, maybe has his best stuff all year to get through that inning, picks up the win."

IN THE SWING: 3B Evan Longoria had been hitting balls hard the past few games with little reward, which made it feel good to connect on a three-run homer in the fifth.

Maddon said while Longoria is hitting. 224, he's "smart enough to know he's on the right track and is making hard contact."

"My swing feels good, and that's kind of what I'm trying to take out of it," Longoria said. "One positive is the fact I feel good in the box and am making good contact. I've just got to keep hoping that they fall."

Longoria nearly won it in the 11th, hitting a grounder off the leg of RHP Shawn Camp with the bases loaded and two outs. But the ball bounced right to Bautista at third, and his throw barely beat Longoria's headfirst slide.

"Just one of those weird plays in a game like that," Longoria said.

STANDING TALL: RHP Jeff Niemann will have a tough time topping his July, when he went 3-0 with a club-record 1.06 ERA.

But as Niemann enters tonight's start, he said he's feeling as good as he did early in the 2010 season, when he was, arguably, the team's most consistent starter. Niemann said a factor in his recent success is being able to locate his fastball, getting it down in the zone, while being able to throw his offspeed pitches (including a curveball) for strikes early in count.

"It's always good to get back to having success because you know you can do it, have done it before," he said. "It's good to be able to go out and do it on a consistent basis again."

GOOD DEED: The Rays wives and Waste Management Co. are teaming up for a backpack and school supplies drive during this weekend's series to support the PACE Center for Girls. Fans can bring new or used backpacks or school supplies to Gates 1 and 5.

MISCELLANY: Thursday was the Rays' sixth walkoff win this season and first since June 28 against the Reds. … Ten of the 11 games between the Rays and Jays this season have been decided by two or fewer runs.

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@sptimes.com.

Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Wade Davis (again) struggles in first, (again) recovers 08/04/11 [Last modified: Thursday, August 4, 2011 10:03pm]
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