TORONTO â€” The sign on the Blue Jays locker-room wall says Get Better Every Day.
But while there were some positives in Toronto’s play Wednesday, once again they did not pay off as the Jays’ early-season tailspin continued.
Milwaukee starter Chase Anderson gave up three hits in seven innings to help the Brewers (4-5) blank Toronto 2-0, handing the Blue Jays their seventh loss in eight games this season.
Toronto (1-7) saw its worst-ever start get a little worse before 29,919 at Rogers Centre. It was Toronto’s fifth straight loss, a stretch that has seen the Jays outhit 48-28.
Asked what he was seeing in Toronto’s offence, third baseman Josh Donaldson replied: “I’m not seeing much.”
“I’m not here to make excuses for myself or for anybody else on the team,” he added. “We have to figure something out and the sooner the better.”
The last time Toronto was six games under .500 was June 2, 2015 (24-30). On the plus side, the Jays went on win the AL East that year with a 93-69 record and came within two wins of reaching the World Series.
The Jays have been held to three or less runs five times this season, losing every time. Four of their seven losses have been by one run.
“I believe this is the best offence in baseball. I know it is,” said starter Marcus Stroman, who took the complete-game loss. “It’s just a matter of we’re struggling a bit right now. I know once these guys get going, it’s going to be scary.
“It’s still early. It’s the first week of the season. Zero reason to panic.”
But something has to change at the plate. Toronto came into the game hitting .196 with only Kansas City sporting a worse average in the majors.
“Some of our better hitters are missing their pitch,” said manager John Gibbons.
It’s early in the season but Gibbons is already repeating himself in his post-game comments.
“We’re just not getting many hits right now but I still believe that maybe tomorrow will be the night. Hopefully if it’s not tomorrow night, it’s going to happen. These guys, they’ll hang together â€” it’s that kind of group.”
Gibbons suggested his batters may have to change their approach.
“There’s some times (where) maybe we’re taking too many fastballs early in the count. Maybe (we should) swing our way out of it a little bit.”
Donaldson said the Jays had to do something different to make opposing pitchers “feel uncomfortable.”
“There’s definitely people who are frustrated,” he added. “People in this clubhouse are professionals and they take a lot of pride in what they do and how they go about it. At the same time I feel a lot of guys are doing the right things. It’s just not showing up right now for the games.”
Milwaukee centre-fielder Keon Broxton’s RBI double in the second accounted for the only run through five innings until Jonathan Villar sent a 90.2-m.p.h. Stroman cutter 417 feet over the right-centre fence for a solo homer.
Anderson (1-0), meanwhile, looked like a world-beater in an 89-pitch outing that featured seven strikeouts and two walks (one intentional).
“This is the best I’ve seen him,” said Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell. “He just had really good stuff. His fastball has played really well and the off-speed, the curveball is a real weapon for him now.”
Corey Knebel and Neftali Feliz finished off the Jays. Feliz, facing the heart of the Toronto batting order, gave up a one-out walk to Donaldson but escaped with a double play for his third save.
The pluses for the Jays were some fine defensive plays by Jose Bautista and Kevin Pillar. Russell Martin broke out of an 0-for-20 slump but only after striking out with the bases loaded.
And Stroman (1-1) went all nine innings, giving up two runs on seven hits with four strikeouts.
“Shoot, Stroman was tremendous. I mean I don’t know how he could have been any better,” said Gibbons.
It was the first complete game by a Jay since R.A. Dickey in September 2015.
Donaldson, restricted to pinch-hitting duties Tuesday due to calf tightness, returned to the lineup as designated hitter. Kendrys Morales shifted to first base.
Anderson, a 29-year-old right-hander who came into the game with a 24-24 record in his four-year major-league career, retired the first 10 Jays he faced before Bautista singled to left with one out in the fourth.
Two walks â€” one intentional to Troy Tulowitzki â€” loaded the bases for Martin with two outs. But Martin went down looking in disbelief at the called third strike from umpire Jerry Layne.
Anderson threw 32 pitches in the first three innings â€” he broke two Jays bats in a seven-pitch third â€” and 26 in the fourth. Anderson was back in the fifth, needing just six pitches to retire the side.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press