National Post

It’s home sweet home as Blue Jays struggle

Third straight loss has team looking to make amends

- Steve Buffery SBuffery@ postmedia. com

• The Toronto Blue Jays have charged out of the starting blocks like a sprinter who forgot his shoes.

Dropping their series finale to the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field 7- 2 on Sunday afternoon, the Jays are 1-5 to start the season, matching their worst start ever (in 2014). The loss to the Rays was their third straight defeat and third after holding a lead in the game.

The Jays get a chance to reverse the trend with their home- opener Tuesday against the Milwaukee Brewers at the Rogers Centre.

“Yeah, I think that’s what we need,” said manager John Gibbons. “We need to get home. Seems like we’ve been gone forever. Maybe that’s the energy and spark we need.”

The Jays also lost 2015 AL MVP Josh Donaldson in the top of the sixth when he pulled up lame trying to beat out a ground ball to first base. Donaldson, who missed a couple of weeks in spring training with right calf strain, hurt it again, although apparently in a different spot. Donaldson expects to play on Tuesday.

The Rays used their speed and defence, and the long ball, to win their third straight over the Jays after losing the series opener. The Jays managed just three hits against Tampa pitching. Toronto starter Marco Estrada took the loss, giving up five earned runs over five innings, including home runs by Corey Dickerson, Steven Souza Jr. and Jesus Sucre. Estrada’s fastball hit 90 mph at times but the location of his curve ball was a problem.

“I was missing with them all day,” he said. “Was looking OK with the fastball so pretty happy about that. It was just one of those days, couldn’t really follow through on my change up and got hurt. They were all up. I even got away with some that I left up. But I know what I did, so I’m going to work on it during my bullpen (session) and I’ll be ready to go for the next one.”

Obviously the mood in the visitor’s clubhouse after Sunday’s loss wasn’t exactly upbeat, but the players insist that it will turn around.

“We’ve got a good ball club. There’s no panic in here,” said shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. “We’re going to be just fine. I can promise you that.”

“We’re six games in; don’t buy too much into it right now,” added Estrada.

The Jays drew first blood with two runs in the first courtesy of Donaldson’s opposite- field solo home run to right. Jose Bautista then walked, Kendrys Morales doubled into the gap between right and centre and Tulowitzki grounded to short to score Bautista from third.

The two teams congregate­d onto the field in the second inning after Tulowitzki took exception to the way Souza slid into second on a double- play. Souza appeared to slide late and the two exchanged words, prompting the dugouts and bullpens to empty.

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