TORONTO — Jaime Garcia is searching for answers after struggling through another short outing.
The Blue Jays left-hander lasted just three-plus innings Tuesday night, allowing five runs — including four on a Johan Camargo grand slam — in Toronto’s 11-4 loss to the Atlanta Braves.
Asked about his inconsistency this season, Garcia took a long pause before answering.
“I don’t know, I’m trying to figure out what it is but I can’t just feel pitches,” he said.
The outing was his second shortest of the year (he lasted just 1 2/3 innings in Detroit on June 1), and it extended a streak of six straight losing decisions for the 31-year-old.
“I’ve dealt with a lot of stuff in my career and I’ve always been a grinder, I always just find a way to figure it out,” said Garcia, who also walked three batters. “Right now it’s just frustrating on my part. The biggest thing is I’m not able to get the job done for what this team expects me to do.
“I take a lot of pride in that and it’s disappointing. I’m not making excuses for anything, I take full responsibility for a game like today, it’s completely on me. It’s frustrating. I feel like I’m letting my team down.”
Camargo’s grand slam was the first of his career and it came on a banner night for the Braves nine-hole hitter.
He was 4 for 5 including the homer — which was crushed to the third deck at Rogers Centre — and a double and two singles to raise his batting average from .221 to .240.
Charlie Culberson also homered for the first-place Braves (43-29), who opened play with the best record in the National League. Ender Inciarte had three RBI’s and Ozzie Albies and Dansby Swanson each drove in one.
Luke Maile and Yangervis Solarte had two RBI’s apiece as the Blue Jays (33-39) saw their seven-game home winning streak come to an end.
Canadian right-hander Mike Soroka, in his second start since returning from a shoulder injury, allowed four runs and eight hits over 4 2/3 innings. Sam Freeman (2-3) earned the win.
Soroka, a 20-year-old from Calgary, became the youngest Canadian-born pitcher to start a MLB game north of the border.
“It was everything I imagined for sure, coming out there seeing a lot of Canadians, a lot of Canadian flags, hearing the anthem, that was really special too,” Soroka said.
After a quick first inning, Garcia (2-6) ran into trouble in the second, allowing a two-out double and back-to-back walks to load the bases before Camargo’s slam.
Culberson homered to lead off the fourth, giving the Braves a 5-1 lead after a Maile groundout had put Toronto on the board in the second. Garcia followed by allowing consecutive singles with nobody out to end his night.
Reliever Danny Barnes got three quick outs to end the fourth, but allowed three runs in the fifth on a double from Inciarte and a single from Camargo.
“It was a battle, no doubt,” manager John Gibbons said. “A couple innings (Garcia) got some quick outs, then that grand slam. … We went to the ‘pen early, we were getting some hits, felt actually pretty good, chance to come back. But they opened it up with those three runs later and it got tougher.”
Maile brought in Kevin Pillar with a single in the bottom of the fourth and Solarte tacked on two runs with a double in the fifth to halve the deficit at 8-4.
Back-to-back doubles from Camargo and Albies put the Braves up 9-4 in the eighth and Inciarte and Swanson made it 11-4 in the ninth with a pair of doubles.
Culberson made a spectacular catch to rob Toronto of a pair of runs in the first. With two on and two out, Pillar sent a deep liner to left-centre and Culberson smashed into the scoreboard to make the catch before tumbling to the ground. He held up the ball while laying on his back to show the final out.
Gibbons called the catch a significant play in the game. Soroka said he thought the ball was gone.
“I thought it was a home run off the bat, actually. I knew it was going to be close,” Soroka said. “I looked up and I saw Charlie just givin’er, and he came down with it on the track and landed on the wall.
“That’s one of the first holy-cow plays I saw. I definitely owe him dinner.”