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Jays continue skid with 4th straight loss

MLB.com @gregorMLB

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays have lost four consecutive games and suddenly are at risk of undoing a lot of the success that they enjoyed in one of the best starts to a season in franchise history.

Toronto opened the year with a 12-5 record but it has been anything but smooth sailing since then. The Blue Jays have lost three series in a row, and have dropped six of their last seven games dating back to last week's four-game set at Yankee Stadium. The latest setback occurred on Saturday afternoon in a 7-4 loss to the Rangers.

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TORONTO -- The Blue Jays have lost four consecutive games and suddenly are at risk of undoing a lot of the success that they enjoyed in one of the best starts to a season in franchise history.

Toronto opened the year with a 12-5 record but it has been anything but smooth sailing since then. The Blue Jays have lost three series in a row, and have dropped six of their last seven games dating back to last week's four-game set at Yankee Stadium. The latest setback occurred on Saturday afternoon in a 7-4 loss to the Rangers.

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Lefty Jaime Garcia was hit hard, early and often against a Texas lineup that roughed him up for five runs over five innings. Robinson Chirinos hit a pair of home runs in the victory, while shortstop Jurickson Profar added his first home run off a lefty in almost five years. The Blue Jays technically were not charged with an error, but they came close a few times in one of their sloppiest games of the year.

"It was a tough day for him," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said of Garcia. "It started out good and then his command deserted him."

The Blue Jays' offense was held in check for most of the afternoon by veteran Bartolo Colon, but it was the continued struggles of the rotation that will receive most of the attention. Toronto's starting five finished Saturday's game having surrendered the fourth-most hits in the American League (147) and the second-most walks (61). The group's 5.39 ERA ranks 13th, so while the starting performance was an issue on Saturday, this is not a new problem from a group that was expected to be among the best in baseball.

Garcia struck out the first four batters he faced but it was all downhill from there. He surrendered a pair of home runs in the second inning, and by the end of the fourth, the 10-year veteran had already thrown 94 pitches. Gibbons, who has been dealing with an overworked bullpen, managed to squeeze a fifth inning out of Garcia, who allowed five hits and issued four walks while being charged with five runs.

Video: TEX@TOR: Garcia K's Kiner-Falefa, the side

The 31-year-old did not appear to be in the mood to talk about his recent struggles after the game. When pressed for answers from a group of reporters, Garcia issued multiple one-word responses. He conceded that command was a problem and then simply left it at:

"We lost. I didn't get the job done."

Garcia has completed six innings just once in five starts for the Blue Jays and has yet to pitch into the seventh with an ERA that now sits 5.40.

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. hit the first home run of his Major League career in the losing effort. Kevin Pillar chipped in with a pair of homers -- the third multi-home run game of his career -- while outfielder Teoscar Hernandez tripled. Colon picked up the victory for Texas, as he limited the Blue Jays to three runs on six hits, while striking out two over seven innings of work. The Blue Jays will need a win on Sunday afternoon to avoid their first series sweep of the season.

Video: TEX@TOR: Pillar smashes a solo home run

"We talk about it all the time, if our starting pitchers go out there and give up some runs early, we have to score anyway to win," Pillar said. "It doesn't matter when that happens. You have to score runs to win this game. Yeah, ideally we'd like to go out there and have our starting pitchers throw up zeroes, but it's baseball. They have a good lineup over there, they're going to score runs, you have to score them to win games anyways."

Video: TEX@TOR: Pillar goes the other way for his 2nd homer

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Miscommunication in the outfield: The Blue Jays had a couple of defensive lapses during the early stages of Saturday's game and there was another one in the fourth inning. With two outs, and a pair of runners on base, Shin-Soo Choo hit a lazy fly ball to left-center field. Pillar appeared to be on the verge of making a catch, but left fielder Curtis Granderson failed to peel away from the play and instead got near his center fielder. Pillar tried to grab the ball at the last moment, but it bounced off his glove as two baserunners easily came around to score. Despite the miscue, no error was charged.

Video: TEX@TOR: Choo drives in Rua, DeShields with double

"We definitely expect to be better than that, but it's part of the game," said Pillar, who had a 95 percent catch probability according to Statcast™ on the play. "There are a lot of new guys out there who are constantly in and out. We're just going to continue to work and get better out there. Grandy and I were able to come into the dugout out and talk about it, and hopefully it doesn't happen again."

Serving up the long ball: Profar's two-run homer in the top of the second was notable for a couple of reasons. First, the no-doubter was crushed, with an exit velocity over 112 mph and a projected distance of 421 feet. Second, it marked Profar's first home run off a lefty in almost five years. Prior to Saturday afternoon, Profar had not homered against a southpaw since Aug. 2, 2013, vs. Oakland's Tommy Milone. Chirinos added a solo shot of his own in the very next at-bat, and then picked up his second of the day in the sixth.

Video: TEX@TOR: Profar crushes a 2-run homer to left

HE SAID IT
"He's been doing it for a long time. The older he gets, the bigger he gets, he just continues to make plays. He has an unbelievable clock for a guy who has been in this game." -- Pillar, who was robbed of a base hit when Colon snared a scorching groundball in the sixth

Video: TEX@TOR: Colon snatches Pillar's comeback liner

UP NEXT
The Blue Jays will wrap up their three-game series when left-hander J.A. Happ (3-1, 3.72) takes the mound against the Rangers on Sunday afternoon with first pitch scheduled for 1:07 p.m. ET. Happ continues to strike out more batters than ever before, having struck out at least eight in four of his five starts this season, with his 12.7 strikeouts per nine innings a career-high. Texas will counter with lefty Martin Perez (2-2, 9.82).

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

Toronto Blue Jays