ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Lou Piniella could smile for a change.
After watching his team squander opportunity after opportunity through
most of a three-game series against the
"That's a thing of beauty for us," Piniella said. "It'll sure make our off day (Thursday) a little better."
The Blue Jays' bullpen wasted a strong performance by starter Josh Towers, who left with a 3-1 lead after allowing four hits, striking out six and walking none in six innings. Danys Baez (1-0) pitched 1 2-3 innings for the win.
I'm very, very happy we won two out of three. But it's 5-2 in the eighth, and I was thinking sweep," Toronto catcher Gregg Zaun said. "I'm not leaving the clubhouse happy today."
Tampa Bay went 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position while losing the first two games of the series, and was 1-for-5 Wednesday before busting loose against Schoeneweis, who was pitching for the third straight day.
The Devil Rays scored once in the seventh off Jason Frasor when Toby Hall grounded into a double play with the bases loaded. Orlando Hudson's RBI triple gave Toronto a 4-2 lead in the eighth, and Eric Hinske's run-scoring single made it 5-2.
Cantu homered for the second straight game, and Carl Crawford had an inside-the-park homer off Towers for the Devil Rays, who rely more on speed than power to generate offense. Crawford led off the winning rally with a triple that seemed to energize his teammates.
"That's the kind of team we have," Piniella said. "But there's no substitute for a three-run homer. You saw that today."
Tampa Bay avoided its first 0-3 start with a roster that includes 16 players who were not here on opening day last year. Another fresh face could be on the way after backup catcher Charles Johnson requested a leave of absence.
Johnson, a former All-Star who signed a one-year contract Monday, was granted permission to leave the team. If he does not return Friday, he will be placed on a restricted list without pay.
"I am going to leave the club for personal reasons," Johnson said in a statement released by the team. "I'm going to return home to Miami and hopefully join the club as soon as possible."
Towers limited the Devil Rays to three singles and Crawford's solo homer through six innings.
Alex Rios drove in Toronto's first two runs with a second-inning triple off left-hander Mark Hendrickson. The Tampa Bay starter settled down and kept his team in it by retiring 11 in a row before Hudson opened the sixth inning with the Blue Jays' fifth hit.
The Devil Rays loaded the bases with no outs in the seventh on a walk and two singles. After getting Hall to hit into a double play, Frasor escaped further damage by striking out Alex Gonzalez.
Schoeneweis wasn't as fortunate. The lefty faced four left-handed batters and didn't get any out.
"It is a lot to ask a guy coming out of spring training to pitch three days in a row," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "He said he's fine. I made the call."
- Tampa Bay's Julio Lugo was ejected in the fourth inning for arguing with plate umpire Phil Cuzzi about a called third strike.
- Crawford's inside-the-park homer was the first of his career and sixth in team history. Rey Sanchez was the last Devil Ray to have one, last June 11 against Colorado at Tropicana Field.
- The Blue Jays were trying to start a season 3-0 for the first time since 1996.