TORONTO -- The first Brewers starter to pitch past the sixth inning this season didn't have his spot in the rotation secured until the final week of Spring Training.
Chase Anderson, who took the place of an injured Matt Garza, was perfect into the fourth inning Wednesday and pitched the first seven frames of a combined four-hit shutout. The Brewers' 2-0 win over the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre finished a two-game series sweep, and had manager Craig Counsell thinking back to Anderson's near no-hitter against the Cubs last May.
"This was the best I've seen him," Counsell said.
Here's one measure of how effective Anderson and Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman were Wednesday: The game was played in a brisk 2 hours and 15 minutes, making it the swiftest Brewers game since Anderson carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning of a 4-2 win over the Cubs in 2 hours and 10 minutes last May 17.
"It's always nice to keep our feet light," said Domingo Santana, who collected two hits for the second straight night and scored the Brewers' first run.
Santana, too, remembered Anderson's gem against the Cubs.
"It was the same type of game, same tempo," Santana said.
Two weeks ago, 29-year-old Anderson was preparing to be assigned to the Brewers' Opening Day bullpen. He was 5-1 with a 2.56 ERA over his final 12 starts of 2016, but knew Junior Guerra and Zach Davies had spots in the starting rotation locked up. Anderson figured the longer-tenured Wily Peralta, Garza and Jimmy Nelson did, too.
But Garza strained his right groin in his final Spring Training start, opening a spot for Anderson. In two starts against the Rockies and Jays, he has allowed one earned run and six hits in 13 innings.
"I was ready to go to the bullpen if I had to. I kind of accepted that, if that was going to be the case," Anderson said. "I just want to be on the team. That was my attitude."
Anderson has struck out 11 and walked four this season, but two of the walks were partially by design in Wednesday's fourth inning. After Jose Bautista singled with one out to break up Anderson's perfect game, Anderson fell into a 2-0 count against Josh Donaldson and walked him. After getting a groundout, Anderson also fell into a 2-0 count against Troy Tulowitzki and walked him, too.
That brought to the plate catcher Russell Martin, who struck out to extend his season-opening slump to 0-for-20.
"I knew I wasn't going to give in," Anderson said. "When I didn't get strike 1, strike 2, I was like, 'I'm not going to throw anything close to the plate.' I would rather face Martin as of right now."
At 1-7, the Blue Jays are off to their worst start in franchise history.
"In my opinion, the pitchers that are facing us are too comfortable on the mound and they're dictating a lot of the pace of the game," Donaldson said. "We have to do something different in order to make them feel like they have to do something different."
Anderson said he enjoyed the duel with Stroman, who tossed his second career complete game. Anderson certainly enjoys starting more so than relief work.
"I'm just trying to take advantage of opportunities, because you don't get too many of them in this game," he said.