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Pavano wins career-high sixth straight

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- Carl Pavano has a knack for making
the Florida Marlins feel better about themselves.

The right-hander pitched seven strong innings to earn his
career-high sixth straight victory Sunday, beating Tampa Bay 11-4
to end the Devil Rays' 13-game interleague winning streak and lift
the defending World Series champions back into first place.

"He's our MVP right now," said Florida's Jeff Conine, who had
three of the Marlins' season-high 17 hits, including a three-run
double.

"Any time that you've got a couple of losses in a row, and you
need somebody to stop the bleeding, so to speak, he's our man. ...
He's our tourniquet."

Pavano (9-2) allowed one run on five hits and matched a season
high with eight strikeouts. He hasn't lost since May 19 at Houston,
and each of his last five starts have followed Marlins losses.

Sunday's victory ended a three-game slide that dropped Florida
one percentage point behind Philadelphia for first in the NL East.

"He's a big-time pitcher now. Every time he goes out there, you
kind of feel that he's going to be in command," Marlins manager
Jack McKeon said.

"We've been looking for this. Hopefully it's the start of
something good. ... It was a good way to leave town. We had so many
opportunities the previous days, and we didn't do it. This is more
like our club."

The Devil Rays, whose interleague winning streak tied a major
league record, lost for just the second time in 17 games, falling
back to .500 (36-36) a day after becoming the first team in major
league history to climb above the break-even point after being 18
games below.

Tampa Bay is 26-8 since May 20, including the 13-game
interleague streak that matched the run the New York Yankees began
against NL opponents last season and continued until San Diego
ended the stretch on June 11.

Despite Sunday's loss, the Devil Rays have won six straight
series and are 9-1-1 in their last 7 to turn around their season.

"Any time you win two of three from the World Series champions,
you feel good," Tampa Bay manager Lou Piniella said. "We didn't
pitch well, obviously. That's the story of the game."

Fred McGriff, who remained seven homers shy of 500 for his
career, had two of Tampa Bay's five hits off Pavano, who also
yielded singles to Rey Sanchez, Rocco Baldelli and Brook Fordyce.
The Devil Rays scored their only run off the Florida starter on
Carl Crawford's sacrifice fly in the third.

Damion Easley hit a solo homer off Chad Gaudin (1-2) and also
drove in a run with a seventh-inning double for Florida. Juan
Pierre added a two-run double during a four-run seventh against
Tampa Bay's bullpen, and had a run-scoring fielder's choice in the
ninth.

The Marlins also scored four in the third on Mike Lowell's RBI
double that glanced off Crawford's glove in left field and Conine's
bases-loaded double that sailed over the head of center fielder
Joey Gathright.

"Birthday or no birthday -- especially after a couple of tough
losses in a row here -- you want to come back and have a good
game," Conine said. "We had the right guy on the mound, and I had
a big hit, which is nice."

Miguel Cabrera's sacrifice fly made it 5-1 in the fourth and
Easley's fourth homer of the season put the Marlins up 6-1 in the
sixth.

The Devil Rays added two runs in the eighth on Julio Lugo's
bases-loaded double off Darren Oliver. Pinch-hitter Robert Fick had
an RBI double in the ninth.

Pavano struck out the side in the second and matched his
previous season high of eight when he fanned Baldelli and Jose Cruz
Jr. in the fourth.

"Things are coming together, I guess," Pavano said.

"I feel like my command has gotten better over these last
couple of weeks, and I'm making pitches when I need to. And I feel
like I've got a little bit of luck on my side. ... Some things have
to go your way, obviously, through a stretch like this."

Game notes
Gaudin allowed six runs and 10 hits in five-plus innings
after failing to get out of the first inning against Toronto last
week. ... In 10 games on his birthday, Conine has batted .388
(14-for-36) with nine RBI. ... Crawford has 15 RBI in his last 15
games. ... The Devil Rays are 8-2 against first-place teams and
have won three series against division leaders during their surge.