Blue Jays 6, Devil Rays 3

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP)—Roy Halladay has put last season’s rough finish behind him.

Halladay won for the first time since last August and Reed Johnson hit a three-run homer to lead the Toronto Blue Jays past the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 6-3 on Sunday.

“I haven’t really thought about it, but it was a tough end of the season last year,” Halladay said. “It’s nice to have it over with.”

Halladay (1-0) had gone winless in seven starts—including his final six last year—since beating Baltimore on Aug. 20. He gave up three runs, seven hits and three walks over seven innings. He struck out seven.

“Doc battled,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said. “It wasn’t an easy day for him.”

Vernon Wells also homered for the Blue Jays. Casey Janssen pitched two innings for his first professional save.

Janssen, moved from a starting role to the bullpen this season, has allowed one hit in 5 2-3 scoreless innings spanning three appearances.

“He’s gaining confidence,” Gibbons said. “The bottom line, he’s got everything he needs. His stuff’s there. It was a big day because we needed him.”

Janssen got the save opportunity because closer B.J. Ryan pitched the previous two days.

Tampa Bay starter Scott Kazmir (0-1) allowed four runs, six hits, two walks and struck out 10 in seven innings. Rocco Baldelli had a solo homer.

Kazmir’s first eight outs came on strikeouts, including one stretch when he struck out six consecutive batters to set a team record. The left-hander, who ended the 2006 season on the disabled list with a shoulder injury, is winless in seven starts dating to a 2-0 shutout of Boston last July 3.

“I really got into a groove early,” Kazmir said. “There’s just a couple of pitches I’d like to have back. There’s some things I can take out of today, positive things. Being aggressive and attacking the hitters.”

Wells put the Blue Jays up 1-0 with a homer in the first. Tampa Bay tied it in the second when Delmon Young scored from third after Elijah Dukes was caught leaning the wrong way at first by Halladay and was later tagged out in a rundown while attempting to steal second.

Baldelli gave the Devil Rays a 2-1 lead when he homered on a 1-2 pitch leading off the fourth.

Toronto third baseman John McDonald, filling in for the injured Troy Glaus, saved at least one run when he made a diving catch of Duke’s grounder with runners on the corners later in the fourth to start an inning-ending double play.

“You don’t want to impact the game in a negative way,” McDonald said. “You want to contribute and do your thing and hopefully the team doesn’t miss a beat without Troy in there.”

McDonald had a two-out single in the fifth and scored when Johnson followed with a three-run homer to make it 4-2.

“The two-out inning really hurt us,” Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. “Other than that, we’d be celebrating right now.”

Young’s sixth-inning RBI single cut Tampa Bay’s deficit to 4-3. The Blue Jays avoided further damage when second baseman Aaron Hill caught Dioner Navarro’s two-out liner with the bases loaded.

“I think they beat us with their gloves as much as anything,” Maddon said. “Not taking anything away from Halladay, but I liked our at-bats against him a lot. I thought we extended him really well. I have no complaints. I thought we played really well.”

Hill and Gregg Zaun had run-scoring singles in the eighth to extend Toronto’s advantage to 6-3.

Notes

Kazmir threw 80 of 111 pitches for strikes. He has nine of Tampa Bay’s 17 10-strikeout games. … Halladay is 7-2 at Tropicana Field. He threw 113 pitches, including 70 strikes. … Glaus, who left Saturday’s game with a sore left heel, might play Monday in the Blue Jays’ home opener against Kansas City. … Young has three hits, including two doubles, in six at-bats against Halladay. … Wells is 7-for-22 with two homers off Kazmir.

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