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Steven Souza Jr. leads Rays to series split with Blue Jays

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The impact that the Tampa Bay Rays wanted when they brought Steven Souza Jr. to the franchise a year ago looked, well, something like what fans saw Wednesday afternoon.

Souza claimed the afternoon for his own, guiding the Rays to their second straight win of the season. Souza had four hits, including two home runs and a double, to beat the Toronto Blue Jays 5-3. Souza also drove in four.

For the fourth game in a row, Toronto took a lead, this time 3-0 on Josh Donaldson’s home run. But the Rays charged back to take their second straight come-from-behind win.

Tampa Bay had four shutout innings thrown by three bullpen members, including the last two in a row from Erasmo Ramirez. Starter Matt Moore struck out six in five innings.

Evan Longoria had two hits and scored two runs.

But the star of the day was Souza, who admitted that he put too much pressure on himself in hitting only .225 last year. This year, Souza has said he feels more comfortable, and it shows. He is hitting .400 early in the season with three homers.

“He was locked in from the first at-bat,” Longoria said.

Said manager Kevin Cash: “This second year, he’s more comfortable. He’s a little bit of a different person. We knew he was a good player.”

The Rays are off Thursday, then open a three-game series in Baltimore. Chris Archer will be on the mound for Tampa Bay.

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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