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TB@TOR: Bautista launches a solo blast in the first

TORONTO -- Ricky Romero has reached a point in his career where he doesn't necessarily need to have his best stuff every time out in order to secure a victory.

When Toronto's left-hander figures out one pitch isn't working on a given night then he calmly moves onto the next until he has figured out how to make do. It's the type of in-game adjustment that most of the top starters in the Majors are able to make.

Romero wasn't in top form on Tuesday night but was still strong enough to record a quality start, while a trio of Blue Jays homered in a 7-3 victory over the Rays at Rogers Centre.

"I had no sinker and really not a good feel for all of my pitches," said Romero, who allowed three earned runs. "Six innings and a win, I'll take that any day of the week. If this is my bad outing, I'll take it any day.

"You just don't panic, you just continue to make pitches. The good pitchers in this game find a way to win and find ways to come out on top. That's what I went out there and did -- just give the team a chance to win, let the defense work and make good pitches when needed."

Romero, who was making his third start of the year, allowed eight hits while striking out five and walking three. It was his second consecutive quality outing on the season, and sixth career victory against Tampa Bay.

The 27-year-old Romero cruised through his first four innings but ran into some difficulty in the fifth. Romero allowed two of the first three batters he faced to reach base, which was followed by an RBI single to right field by shortstop Reid Brignac.

The troublesome inning continued, as Chris Gimenez recorded an RBI single and became the fourth consecutive Rays hitter to reach base. Romero then appeared to settle down by getting the next two batters -- including a strikeout of Carlos Pena -- to end the threat.

"Ricky battled himself. But he made a big pitch in a couple of big situations, got a couple of key double plays," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. "Then, the strikeout to Pena with two outs, base open and men on second and third -- in just a two-run game at the time -- was another key moment."

Romero came out to start the seventh, but promptly surrendered a solo homer to Matt Joyce. Tampa Bay's outfielder was one of four left-handed hitters to start against Romero, who entered the game having allowed lefties to hit .276 in his career.

Rays manager Joe Maddon talked openly last year about his preference for using left-handers against Romero. That once again became a storyline on Tuesday, as prior to the game Maddon said he would start nine lefties against Toronto if he was able to.

Romero, who said one of his top priorities during the spring was to improve against hitters from the left side, appears to be growing somewhat tired of that talk coming from the Tampa Bay clubhouse.

"He can start nine [lefties], for all I care," Romero said. "I really don't care what he has to say or what his mindset is against me. If he has nine lefties against me, I'll find a way to win -- and that's just the bottom line.

"Obviously, there [have] been days where those guys have been successful against me from the left side, and there have been those days where I've come out on top. He can do whatever he wants, I'm not worried about that. I just go out there and pitch."

The Blue Jays' offense got off to a quick start, as Jose Bautista snapped a mini slump with a solo home run off right-hander Jeff Niemann in the first inning. Bautista's second blast of the year went into the second deck and snapped a stretch of eight games without a homer.

The production continued in the third, as Toronto put runners on the corners for Bautista. The Blue Jays right fielder just got under a pitch and sent it to the warning track in left for a sacrifice fly and fourth RBI of the year.

Adam Lind followed with an opposite-field homer to left, his first of the season. It was a two-run shot and put the Blue Jays in front by four. The three-run frame wouldn't have been possible if not for a pair of errors by Rays third baseman Evan Longoria, which allowed the inning to continue. Longoria had three errors on the night to set a career high and tie a club record for most in a game.

Lind entered the game with a .423 average against Niemann, but didn't put too much stock into those overall numbers.

"Well, I don't think anyone is really easy to hit in the big leagues," Lind said. "I just think you got your gameplan as a team, and we had quality at-bats up the middle of the lineup."

Brett Lawrie added his second homer of the year in the eighth inning, with a solo shot off Burke Badenhop. Lawrie now has home runs in two consecutive games and appears to be turning the corner after a slow start to the year.

The same could be said for a Blue Jays offense that is now averaging 6.25 runs per game over its past four contests.

"We all know that it's a matter of time before everyone starts coming around," Romero said. "We all know what those guys can do -- and as soon as they start getting hot, everyone else is going to feed off of them. It's just going to keep getting better. And with our pitching, the way it's been, overall our team is looking great."

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