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Blue Jays lose 7-2 to Rays in series finale

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Two rough innings cost the Toronto Blue Jays a chance to open the season with a series win. They’ll take it, though, because it’s better than they usually do here.

Brandon Morrow gave up four runs and seven hits over five innings in his first start since last May 28, and the Blue Jays lost 7-2 to the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday night for a split of the teams’ four-game series.

“I think a split’s good, coming out of here,” Morrow said. “It’s tough, the first series of the year. Obviously we would have loved to win this game, but it’s still positive to come in and play well for the most part.”

Since winning a series in April 2007, Toronto has lost 19 road series and split two against the Rays.

“Against those four starters they threw at us, to get two wins, you’ve got to feel good, especially after getting knocked around a little bit that first game,” said Jays manager John Gibbons. “So we’ll go home feeling good.”

The Blue Jays will open a three-game series at home Friday night against the New York Yankees.

“We’re excited,” Gibbons said. “It seems like we’ve been down in Florida forever. Actually we really have, so it’ll be good to get home in front of a friendly crowd.”

Chris Archer threw six solid innings, Evan Longoria hit a three-run homer and the Rays put together four straight hits off Morrow (0-1) to score three runs in the third.

Archer (1-0) allowed two runs, four hits, two walks and had seven strikeouts a day after agreeing to a $25.5 million, six-year deal.

Longoria hit Tampa Bay’s only home run of the series off Esmil Rogers in the seventh.

Morrow, who missed the final four months last season due to an entrapped radial nerve in his right forearm, was victimized by consecutive back-to-back choppers through the infield by Desmond Jennings and Ben Zobrist in the Rays’ three-run third. Longoria followed with a single and it took a double play to limit the damage to three runs.

“It was just one of those things where you think you threw better than the end results,” Morrow said. “But to their credit, they did their job. They weren’t trying to do too much. They weren’t giving away at bats.”

Toronto got to 4-2 in the fourth on Dioner Navarro’s sacrifice fly and an RBI infield single from Brett Lawrie.

Tampa Bay right fielder and 2013 AL Rookie of the Year Wil Myers was scratched from the lineup due to flu-like symptoms. Infielder-outfielder Sean Rodriguez was placed on the paternity leave list and infielder Vince Belnome was recalled from Triple-A Durham.

NOTES: Gibbons considered challenging an out call at first base in the ninth inning after a ground ball by Lawrie, but was told he was too late. “Once the pitcher steps on the rubber and the hitter steps in the box, they nullify it,” Gibbons said. “It turned out he was out, but at the time it was questionable.” … Toronto closer Casey Janssen, on the 15-day disabled list due to a strain in his left abdominal area and lower back, continued throwing on level ground. The right-hander doesn’t know when he will have a bullpen session. “We’re just trying to work our way to the mound,” Janssen said. “Want to get comfortable on flat ground.” … Tampa Bay RHP Jake Odorizzi and Texas LHP Joe Saunders will start the opener of a three-game series Friday night. … The Blue Jays will start RHP Dustin McGowan in Friday night’s home opener against the New York Yankees. Japanese star Masahiro Tanaka will make his major league debut for the Yankees.