TORONTO -- The Blue Jays are off to their slowest start in franchise history, and a pair of slugging Brewers are at least partly to blame.
Milwaukee spoiled Toronto's 41st home opener as Keon Broxton and Domingo Santana each homered in a 4-3 victory on Tuesday night at Rogers Centre. Right-hander Wily Peralta tossed six quality innings and Neftali Feliz nearly touched 101 mph while recording the save, pushing the Brewers' record to 3-5 while Toronto dropped to 1-6 for the first time in club history.
"Man, that felt like my Opening Day," said Peralta, who did pitch the Brewers' regular-season opener last season, but worked their third game this year. "A lot of energy. The crowd was loud all night. I love pitching games like that."
The Brewers didn't take very long to silence the sold-out crowd, with a pair of runs in the first inning off lefty J.A. Happ. Broxton and Santana each drove in a run that inning, but that was only the start, as the pair combined to go 4-for-9 with three runs scored and three RBIs. Happ was charged with all four Milwaukee runs, on nine hits over 4 2/3 innings, en route to his second loss in as many starts this season.
Peralta allowed the Blue Jays to score in two of the first three innings but eventually settled in and found a groove. He scattered three hits and four walks while striking out seven to pick up his second victory of the year. Milwaukee's bullpen then took it the rest of the way with scoreless innings from Jacob Barnes, Corey Knebel and Feliz.
Toronto's Troy Tulowitzki and Kendrys Morales combined to go 5-for-7 with three RBIs, but the rest of the lineup was nowhere to be seen. Russell Martin struck out three times and has yet to record a hit this season, and while Jose Bautista nearly hit a go-ahead homer in the seventh, it fell short of the wall and he has been limited to one extra-base hit in seven games this season.
"We're not in a good spot, that's for sure," Happ said after the loss. "We're just not playing good enough to win games. 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 real good weeks together and try to get back to even, but we know we can do that."
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MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Barnes keeps Tulo at bay: Tulowitzki had doubled twice and drove in three runs by the time he stepped to the plate in the bottom of the seventh inning. The Blue Jays were threatening to score and had the man they wanted at the plate, but it was Barnes who ended up getting the last laugh. Barnes got Tulowitzki to take a first-pitch slider in the lower part of the strike zone and then came back with the very same pitch, getting Tulowitzki to hit a sharp ground ball right at shortstop Orlando Arcia for the final out of the inning.
"It's a marathon," Tulowitzki said. "You'd like to get off to a good start, but that's not the way it happens all the time. The teams that I've been on, the second half is when they've made their run, pretty much for my whole career."
Santana slings it: Santana's 1-for-17 skid at the start of the year seems like a distant memory. He homered against the Cubs on Sunday and added another one in the top of the fifth inning with a solo shot to right-center field. According to Statcast™, Santana's second of the year was projected to travel 377 feet and left his bat at 106 mph. Happ gave up a lot of hard contact all night, with seven of Milwaukee's batted balls having at least a 100 mph exit velocity.
Broxton's solo shot in the first inning was not among those, as it left his bat at 96.3 mph with a launch angle of 33 degrees. Similar batted balls have gone for hits only 25 percent of the time and it was tied for the 14th-softest homer by Milwaukee in the Statcast™ Era.
"Whenever the crowd's into it like that, you want to play better and play harder just to shut 'em up," Broxton said. "That picks everybody up."
A LITTLE HELP, PLEASE
Peralta gave the Brewers their third quality start in the past five games when he worked around a sixth-inning walk with some help from catcher Manny Pina, who ended the inning by throwing out Kevin Pillar trying to steal second base. Pina's pop time was 1.86 seconds, better than the Major League average of 2.00 seconds on caught stealings during the Statcast™ Era. Pina's 84.1-mph throw was better than average, too. The average on "max effort" throws (those in the 90th percentile or higher) is 81.8 mph.
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons challenged the call, but the out was confirmed. Pina's big night continued in the eighth when he doubled for his third hit.
"I knew when I came out in the sixth it was going to be my last [inning] because of my pitch count," Peralta said. "I tried to give all that I can to finish that inning. Pina helped me out."
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
The Brewers thought they had Steve Pearce picked off second base in the fourth inning, when he scampered back to the bag and slid under shortstop Arcia's tag. Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell challenged the safe call, but it stood. Peralta recovered to strand Pearce there by striking out Ryan Goins to end the inning.
In the eighth, the Brewers caught a break when Justin Smoak was awarded first base on a hit by pitch. He was replaced by pinch-runner Darwin Barney, but Barney had to trot back to the dugout when crew chief Jerry Layne initiated a review of Knebel's pitch and overturned the call. Smoak reclaimed his bat, strode back to home plate and struck out looking in what became a scoreless inning.
Brewers: With a right-hander on the mound for Toronto, one-time Blue Jays prospect Eric Thames should be back in the Brewers' lineup when the series concludes Wednesday at 6:07 p.m. CT, with Chase Anderson on the mound for Milwaukee. Thames played parts of two seasons at Rogers Centre through 2012 before bouncing to the Mariners, Orioles and Astros organizations, and then South Korea for three big seasons that landed him back in Major League Baseball.
Blue Jays: Right-hander Marcus Stroman (1-0, 1.42 ERA) will take the mound when the Blue Jays close out their two-game Interleague set with the Brewers. Stroman induced nine groundouts in his first start last Thursday, with eight of them coming off his two-seam fastball. That was hardly a surprise, considering Stroman led MLB starters in two categories last year: Overall ground ball percentage (60.1%) and the most ground ball outs recorded via the two-seamer (166). First pitch is 7:07 p.m. ET.
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