TORONTO – The Toronto Blue Jays dug their early-season hole a little deeper Tuesday, setting an unenviable franchise record in the process.
At 1-6, Toronto is off to its worst start ever after a 4-3 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers in its home opener.
“We’re not in a good spot, that’s for sure,” said Jays starter J.A. Happ. “We’re just not playing good enough to win games. We’re going to come tomorrow and the 154 days after that and we’re going to try to change that. But unfortunately that means we’re going to have to put a couple of real good weeks together to kind of get back to even. But we know we can do that. But we’d like to get it done sooner than later.”
“It’s a long season, lot of time, no reason to panic,” added Troy Tulowitzki, who drove in all three Toronto runs.
The Jays have lost six straight home openers – another franchise record – and seven of their last eight. The last win was against Minnesota in 2011.
It was the fourth time Toronto has been held to three runs or less this season. It has lost all four.
“We’re not hitting right now but we’re going to hit. There’s no question in my mind,” said Toronto manager John Gibbons. “We’ll wash this one off, come back and hopefully get that going tomorrow. Because it’s just a matter of time, there’s no doubt in my mind.”
Keon Broxton and Domingo Santana homered for Milwaukee (3-5) in a game that featured three video challenges and lasted a glacial three hours 31 minutes.
Tulowitzki drove in Toronto’s run with two doubles – both on 0-2 counts – and a sacrifice fly. The Jays shortstop, who came into the game 3 of 24 but with six RBI, and Kendrys Morales accounted for all five Toronto hits.
Happ (0-2) was pulled in the fifth after a 102-pitch outing that yielded four runs, nine hits, eight strikeouts and more than a few hard hit balls.
“A couple of home runs got us,” said Gibbons. “But he pitched good enough to win.”
Happ, who went 20-4 last season, has struck out 17 and has yet to issue a walk this season so probably deserves better.
On the plus side, closer Roberto Osuna returned after a stint on the disabled list with neck spasms. He gave up a single in a 14-pitch ninth inning.
The Toronto bullpen – Dominic Leone, Joe Smith, Joe Biagini, Jason Grilli and Osuna – retired 13 of 16 Brewer batters.
Milwaukee closer Neftali Feliz pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his second save with pinch-hitter Josh Donaldson, who started on the bench because of a sore calf, striking out.
Despite a glorious day outside, the Rogers Centre roof – which just completed a two-year $10-million retrofit – was closed. It was 20 degrees Celsius inside, 14 outside as the Jays took the field before a sellout crowd of 48,456 fans waving giveaway rally towels.
WATCH ABOVE: Alan Carter chats with Blue Jays Manager John Gibbons about the team’s upcoming season, the city and getting them back to the post season.
Milwaukee’s Manny Pina came within inches of homering in the second but had to settle for a single after his 359-foot blast bounced back
Tuesday was the Jays’ 41st home opener (26-15), their 28th (16-12) at Rogers Centre and their first ever interleague home opener.
Milwaukee starter Wily Peralta (2-0) went six innings, giving up three runs on five hits with four walks and seven strikeouts in a 112-pitch evening.
“I felt like that was my opening day,” he said. “A lot of energy, the crowd was loud all night. I love pitching in games like that.”
Broxton slammed Happ’s seventh pitch – a 93.1 m.p.h. fastball – 379 feet off the wall behind the Jays’ bullpen. Travis Shaw tripled off the centre-field wall with two outs, just eluding Kevin Pillar’s glove, and came home on Santana’s single.
Tulowitzki doubled home a run in the bottom of the first.
Broxton extended the lead to 3-1 in the third when he singled, stole second and moved to third on a groundout, scoring on a fielder’s choice when Devon Travis’s throw home pulled Russell Martin slightly off home plate.
Tulowitzki’s sacrifice fly in the third cut the lead to 3-2.
Happ escaped a 31-pitch fourth inning, with the Brewers unable to take advantage of men on first and second with no outs. But he did not finish the fifth as Santana homered with two out to make it 4-2, sending the ball 377 feet into the Brewers’ bullpen for a 4-2 lead.
Tulowitzki doubled home Morales to trim the lead by one in the fifth.
Both teams squandered chances, leaving a combined 16 men on base and going 2-for-16 with runners in scoring position.
Martin, who struck out three times on the night, is 0-for-18 this season at the plate.
While Toronto’s slow start came on the road, Milwaukee stumbled out of the gate at home. Tuesday marked the Brewers’ first away game – the start of a nine-game road trip.