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Rays take usual formula for loss, then reverse it

Okay, so at least we know they have it in them.

The Rays followed two of their sloppiest games with one of their sharpest Sunday, snapping a seven-game losing streak with a 7-5 win over the Blue Jays.

For a team that seemed to be doing everything wrong, the Rays, at least for three hours on a steamy afternoon, did a lot right. They hit. They ran. They moved runners over. They scored. They made plays. They got outs when they needed them. They executed. They played well.

And, most importantly after losing 15 of 16, they won.

"It's good for everybody's soul to occasionally win a game, because these are the times that try men's souls," manager Hal McRae said. "It sort of weeds you out. Are you going to hang? Are you strong enough? Are you good enough to hang in there and pull out of this thing?

"Everybody needed one. I needed one. The players needed one. It's sort of demoralizing to lose every night, and to play (poor) ball and lose. It's demoralizing. The psychological edge is so important in this game because we play so many games and we play every day. We need to feel that we can win, but we can't feel that consistently if we don't win enough. So it was a very important win for us."

Of course, it's only one win, and just their 30th of the season at that. And it came against a similarly young and inexperienced Blue Jays team that made the kind of mistakes the Rays had been making.

But as rough as things had been going for the Rays, they figure they have to start (over) somewhere.

"Baby steps," Steve Cox said.

"Any win against any club is a positive for us right now," Brent Abernathy said. "We need to try and build on it and play consistently good baseball."

Their intentions were clear early Sunday when Andy Sheets opened the game with a double. McRae had Abernathy bunt him to third, the first of a team-record four sacrifices, and Cox scored him with a sacrifice fly.

McRae didn't necessarily plan to play that way _ "You can't script the first 10 plays," he said _ but quickly decided on a fundamental approach.

"I felt it was important today once we got into things to do it that way, to make it easier for the guys _ and to take some pressure off the guys _ to get guys over, to drive somebody in from second or get a big hit to keep an inning going," he said. "I wanted to move guys up 90 feet to put players in position to get ground balls and fly balls so we score runs."

Rookie Jorge Sosa, who ended up with his first win, gave the first run right back, but the Rays scratched out two more in the third. Carl Crawford showed a glimpse of his many talents, legging out a leadoff single after hitting a seemingly routine slow roller toward second. He stole second, and the Rays rapped three consecutive two-out singles to make it 3-1.

A homer by Jason Conti and two by the Jays off Sosa made it 4-3 Tampa Bay going into the sixth. The Rays expanded it to 6-3 with some more sound baseball, a clutch single by Chris Gomez and a sacrifice fly by Abernathy, and some sloppy Toronto play.

The momentum seemed to change, and the anxiety level rise, when the Jays stopped the Rays twice, then started a rally against Travis Harper in their eighth. The first two Jays reached on singles through the middle, and after a strikeout Tom Wilson lashed a run-scoring double. The Jays drew to within 6-5 on Dewayne Wise's grounder, but Harper held them there, getting Dave Berg to pop up a sinking fastball for the biggest out of the game.

"I had a couple runs to work with, which is always a luxury late in the game," Harper said. "They hit a couple balls on the ground that got through and scored a couple runs, but not the one that really counts."

The Rays added an insurance run, and Esteban Yan allowed just a two-out walk, and two hard-hit line drive outs, in the ninth for his first save since June 27. For the first time in a while, the Rays had played a solid complete game. "A good recovery from the other games that we played," McRae said.

In the clubhouse, the smiles were wide and the music loud. The seven-game losing streak (their third this season of that length or longer) was history. So was the 13-game road losing streak that dated to June 18.

"We did everything we were supposed to do today, and we came out on top," Abernathy said. "That's what's supposed to happen."