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Updated: Wednesday, July 30, 2003 11:47 PM EDT
MLB RECAP
Tampa Bay Devil Rays
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Stats: Batting | Pitching
R H E
5 7 0
Toronto Blue Jays
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Stats: Batting | Pitching
R H E
3 7 0
W Zambrano (8-5)
L Lidle (11-9)
S Colome (2)
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TAMPA BAY 5, TORONTO 3
 

TORONTO (Ticker) -- Jeff Liefer 's two-run homer in the fourth inning lifted the Tampa Bay Devil Rays past the Toronto Blue Jays , 5-3.

Liefer had his contract purchased from Class AAA Durham before the game and gave Tampa Bay a 4-3 advantage when he sent Toronto starter Cory Lidle 's first pitch over the right field fence.

He began this season with the Montreal Expos but hit just .193 with three homers and 18 RBI in 35 games. The Devil Rays claimed Liefer off waivers on June 6 but he had only one hit in 12 at-bats and was designated for assignment on June 14.

With a chance to play everyday at Durham, Liefer produced. In 24 games, he hit .315 with six homers and 18 RBI.

"I'm happy," Liefer said. "I just wanted to contribute to a win and luckily I stepped off the plane and did it today. I was looking out over the plate and I got it."

"He's got some pop," Tampa Bay manager Lou Piniella said. "He sat for a good portion of last season on the White Sox bench and then he sat in Montreal. When he came here, he just needed at-bats and we recognized that. We sent him out, knowing full well that we'd get him back up here and give him an opportunity to play."

Liefer connected for his first homer since May 14 after Toronto left fielder Reed Johnson made an outstanding diving catch to rob Damian Rolls of an extra-base hit.

Tampa Bay's Victor Zambrano (8-5) settled down after a rocky start, allowing three runs and seven hits in 6 2/3 innings. He gave up three runs in the second inning, but recovered and won for the sixth time in seven decisions.

The 27-year-old righthander equaled his win total from 2002 and improved to 7-3 since returning from the Durham on May 23.

"When I got called back up, I started thinking a lot about hitters about location and about confidence," Zambrano said. "I'm winning, learning a lot and it's helping me get better and be more consistent."

"Zambrano had one tough inning," Piniella said. "But other than that, it was pretty good pitching. He's got good stuff. This kid is a legitimate major league starter." Zambrano was lifted with Johnson on second and rookie Mark Malaska came on to walk slugger Carlos Delgado intentionally. But Malaska regrouped and struck out Greg Myers to end the threat.

Travis Harper struck out two and retired all three batters he faced in the eighth. Jesus Colome worked a perfect ninth and notched his second save in five opportunities.

Lidle (11-9) surrendered five runs and seven hits in seven innings. He continued to struggle after a strong start, losing for the fifth time in six decisions.

Despite allowing five earned runs or more for the fifth time in seven starts, the righthander felt his stuff was improved.

"I pitched better than I have in a long time," Lidle said "The linescore doesn't look like it. But I was in command of my fastball, had a good sinker and made some good pitches. It just didn't work out tonight."

Lidle, who had a seven-game winning streak earlier this season, allowed consecutive one-out singles to Aubrey Huff and rookie Rocco Baldelli in the first inning. He fell behind Travis Lee and served up a two-run double.

But Delgado led off the second with a single and Myers moved him to third with a double. After Bobby Kielty 's groundout plated Delgado, Myers scored on Zambrano's wild pitch and Mike Bordick had an RBI single.

Liefer's blast and Zambrano's ability to bounce back from the bad inning gave Tampa Bay its 13th win in 25 games in July. The Devil Rays were 5-21 in June, but are on the verge of clinching the fourth winning month in team history.


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