Nomo gets third win in last 13 starts

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- Aubrey Huff hopes he has regained his hitting stroke.

Huff hit a three-run homer and Hideo Nomo pitched seven strong innings, leading the Tampa Bay Devil Rays past the Toronto Blue Jays 4-3 on Monday night.

"It's a start," said Huff, who is hitting just .249 with 38 RBI. "There's a lot of baseball left. I've been down before. You've got to keep swinging and hopefully one day something will click and you will get on a roll."

Huff's shot in the third snapped a 14-inning scoreless streak for Tampa Bay. It was his fifth homer of the season and first since June 3. Huff had 29 homers last year.

"No matter how you cut it, he's a 30-homer, 100-RBI guy," Devil Rays outfielder Jonny Gomes said. "He's off to a slow start, but he's going to turn it around."

Nomo (5-6) allowed two runs and eight hits for just his third win in his last 13 starts. He struck out three and walked two.

"It really makes a big difference when Huff plays well," Nomo said through an interpreter.

It was just the second time in his last 20 games that Huff has driven in a run. He had a three-run double against St. Louis on June 19.

The victory moved Tampa Bay manager Lou Piniella (1,479-1,375) to within one of tying Earl Weaver for 19th place on the all-time list. The Devil Rays snapped a six-game losing skid at home.

Danys Baez got the final four outs for his 13th save in 19 opportunties, despite allowing an RBI single to Alex Rios in the eighth.

Toronto manager John Gibbons was ejected by plate umpire C.B. Bucknor in the third. Gibbons voiced his unhappiness with the strike zone from the dugout after Bucknor called a pitch to Huff a ball. Bucknor took several steps toward the Toronto dugout but
took no action.

After Huff homered, Gibbons was tossed after the first pitch to the next hitter, Jorge Cantu. Bucknor and Gibbons jawed with each other near the plate before crew chief Jerry Crawford stepped between the pair and Gibbons headed back toward the dugout.

"I thought there were some close pitches from the get-go," Gibbons said. "He saw them one way, we saw them another. He thought they were strikes ... I didn't. He's got the final say."

The umpiring crew declined to talk with reporters.

Carl Crawford and Julio Lugo had drawn two-out walks from Pete Walker (3-1) before Huff's homer. The right-hander issued three walks over his previous 16 1/3 innings entering the game.

"I felt like I was making pitches, but it doesn't really matter," Walker said. "I've got to find a way to establish my strike zone and I wasn't able to do that. Definitely, I let it get
to me a little bit. I'm little disappointed that I got frustrated ... I kind of lost my composure."

Walker gave up four runs and seven hits in six innings. He had three walks and no strikeouts.

"It was just one of those nights that the close calls didn't go my way," Walker said. "Sometimes you need a pitch or two here and there, but not many went my way. I still have to find a way to make pitches and keep us in the game and I wasn't able to do that."

Orlando Hudson pulled the Blue Jays within 3-2 on a two-run, bases-loaded single in the fourth. He had a pair of homers and three RBI in Sunday's 9-5 win at Washington.

The Devil Rays took a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the fourth on Gomes' solo homer, his sixth in 66 at-bats this season.

Game notes
Nomo is 4-1 at home this year. ... Tampa Bay has been outscored 79-24 in the eighth inning. ... Gibbons has been ejected four times this season. ... Blue Jays catcher Ken Huckaby snapped an 0-for-20 slide with a third-inning single. ... Crawford has a
stolen base in six of his last seven games. He stole second in the third inning. ... Tampa Bay catcher Toby Hall went 2-for-4, giving him three hits in his last 33 at-bats. ... Toronto has lost seven of its last eight road games.