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Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Zach Eflin delivers to the Toronto Blue Jays during the first inning of a baseball game Thursday, May 25, 2023, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Their latest loss prompted Toronto players to call a postgame meeting in response to a 2-9 stretch manager John Schneider described as being "punched right in the face."

"We have to get better," Schneider said after Thursday's 6-3 defeat to the Tampa Bay Rays. "When it come down to us as a staff, the expectations are put right in front of you. There is an urgency that needs to be had in order to meet those expectations. Wins and losses out the window. the last 10 days haven't been great, and I think that the urgency in which those expectations are trying to be achieved is not right there."

"Yes, that's on me and the players ... Ultimately on me." Schneider added. "When the players are recognizing that, and when the players are calling attention to that, it's going to hold a lot more weight than anyone of the staff members trying to get mad or get in their face,"

Zach Eflin became major leagues' third seven-game winner in the victory over struggling Alek Manoah as the Rays took three of four from the Blue Jays.

Eflin (7-1) allowed one run and six hits in seven innings as the major league-leading Rays (37-15) stole seven bases for the second time this season and improved to 24-5 at home. He joined teammate Shane McClanahan (8-0) and Minnesota's Joe Ryan (7-1) as the big leagues' winningest pitchers.

"Elite pitch execution," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "To get them to swing early in the count and not drive the ball, it's speaks to Zach's stuff."

Manoah (1-5), a 16-game winner last year, extended his winless streak to nine starts after giving up five runs, three hits and five walks over three innings with six strikeouts. He threw just 44 of 87 pitches for strikes and his ERA climbed from 5.15 to 5.53, The Rays stole five bases while he was on the mound.

"We know we're better than we're playing right now," Manoah said. "We just need to stick together, and we've just got to keep fighting."

Toronto (26-25) is 8-15 in May. The Blue Jays are 6-15 in division play after going 43-33 last year. They trail the Rays by 10 1/2 and the teams do not meet again until six games during the final 10 days of the season.

After the Blue Jays loaded the bases with one out in the ninth against Jake Diekman, Colin Poche entered and walked Bo Bichette on four pitches and gave up a sacrifice fly to pinch-hitter Ernie Clement. Poche got his first save this season when Vladimir Guerrero Jr. grounded into a game-ending forceout.

Wander Franco tripled and scored on Randy Arozarena's single during Tampa Bay's two-run first. Arozarena stole second and took third as Brandon Lowe struck out and reached firston a wild pitch. Harold Ramírez then hit a potential inning-ending double-play that second baseman Cavan Biggio bobbled and could only get a forceout at second as Arozarena to come home.

Josh Lowe made it 3-1 on a run-scoring double in the second. Manoah, who threw 62 pitches through two innings, avoided further damage by striking out Brandon Lowe to stranded the bases loaded.

Taylor Walls stole third as part of a double steal and scored on an errant throw by catcher Alejandro Kirk in a two-run third as the Rays went up 5-1.

Franco stole his 16th and 17th bases and scored to put the Rays ahead on Arozarena's seventh-inning single off Adam Cimber.

Toronto's Brandon Belt had a first-inning RBI single.


Rays 1B Luke Raley sent the ball he struck out Gurrerro in the eighth inning Tuesday to the Blue Jays clubhouse for the slugger to sign. Guerrero hit a grand slam off Raley in the ninth,


Tampa Bay optioned RHP Ben Heller to Triple-A Durham one day after he was called up. He warmed up in the bullpen Wednesday but hasn't gotten into a big league game since Sept. 4, 2020.


Blue Jays: C Danny Jansen (left groin tightness) underwent an MRI.


Blue Jays: RHP Kevin Gausman (2-3) will go Friday night against Minnesota RHP Louis Varland (2-0).

Rays: RHP Cooper Criswell (0-1) will start or follow an opener against Los Angeles Dodgers RHP Noah Syndergaard (1-3) on Friday night.

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