Blue Jays try to halt franchise-worst start
TORONTO — The Toronto Blue Jays would rather finish strong than start fast.
It worked for them over the past two seasons when they closed well to reach the postseason and the American League Championship Series.
“It’s better to be finisher than a starter, we’re pretty good at that,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “We’ll get going and we can reel off some wins in a row.”
They must be careful not to leave it too late, even at this early stage of the season.
When the Blue Jays lost their home opener 4-3 to the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday night, their record dropped to 1-6, the worst start in franchise history.
That includes the early years of an expansion team that began in 1977.
“We’re not in a good spot, that’s for sure,” said Toronto left-hander J.A. Happ, who took his second loss in as many starts Tuesday.
The Blue Jays have one more chance Wednesday night against the Brewers (3-5) as the teams wrap up a two-game set at the Rogers Centre.
Toronto goes with Marcus Stroman (1-0, 1.42 ERA), who pitched the Blue Jays’ only win this season on Thursday.
The Brewers start Chase Anderson (0-0, 1.50 ERA).
Neither starter has faced the other team in his career.
“We’re just not playing good enough to win games,” Happ said. “We’re going to come tomorrow and 154 days after that, and we’re going to try to change that. 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. We’d like to get it done sooner than later.”
Tuesday was the first game of nine straight on the road for the Brewers, who got off to a quick start in Toronto’s home opener. A two-run first inning was sparked by Keon Broxton’s one-out homer.
“It’s huge for our team to come out with that confidence,” Broxton said. “Just coming in with this atmosphere was awesome. It was crazy. It gets the blood flowing and helps us come out and play well. Whenever the crowd is into it like that, we want to play better and play harder, just to shut them up.”
Former Blue Jay Eric Thames did not play Tuesday for the Brewers because Toronto started a left-hander.
The left-handed-hitting Thames has not started any of the three games in which the Brewers faced a left-handed starter. He is 0-for-2 against lefties this season.
He is expected to start Wednesday against Stroman, a right-hander.
Thames, who spent three years playing in Korea, was signed by the Brewers in the offseason. The first baseman/outfielder is hitting .333 (6-for-18) with a homer and three RBIs in six games.
Jesus Aguilar started Tuesday at first base and went 1-for-4 to drop his average to .400, but manager Craig Counsell said he is not going to have a platoon.
“Seven games in, and I’ve been clear on this, we have young players and we have to try to get them involved,” Counsell said. “I think things will change as the season goes. Performance will dictate that. Starting the season, I think it’s important to get Jesus Aguilar involved. He had such a great spring, and frankly, continued it to start the season. I want to see what that’s going to look like. I don’t plan on carrying that out the whole season.
“Eric has played very well. It’s not, by any stretch, a statement about how Eric has played. He has done a tremendous job. His ability to play the outfield is going to create more playing time as we go into the future. His outfield play has been impressive to this point, and that’s going to earn him more playing time.”
Thames said, “I feel like I see lefties pretty well. I’m used to it. Being a left-handed power hitter, later on in the game, they always bring in a southpaw in big situations. So, I’m used to that.”