Published On: Wed, Jun 20th, 2018

The bottom hits Garcia as Braves roll past Blue Jays

They were on a roll, Jaime Garcia and the Blue Jays, coming into Tuesday night’s series opener against the Atlanta Braves.

The left-handed starter had pitched into the sixth inning in his previous two outings. His ERA had dropped from 6.28 in his eight starts before a 10-day stay on the disabled list, to 4.58 in the four outings since.

Braves outfielder Charlie Culberson holds the ball up after an inning-ending, run-saving, hit-stealing catch on Toronto’s Kevin Pillar in the bottom of the first inning Tuesday.
Braves outfielder Charlie Culberson holds the ball up after an inning-ending, run-saving, hit-stealing catch on Toronto’s Kevin Pillar in the bottom of the first inning Tuesday.  (Steve Russell / Toronto Star)

And his team was on a seven-game winning streak at Rogers Centre, the longest since July 2016.

The runs came to an end in tandem against Atlanta. Garcia allowed five runs through three innings, by way of a grand slam and a solo homer. The Jays never recovered, ultimately losing 11-4. Catcher Luke Maile and third baseman Yangervis Solarte had two-RBI nights for Toronto.

“It was a battle, not doubt,” manager John Gibbons said of Garcia’s night.

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Braves outfielder Charlie Culberson was one of the visitors’ stars, robbing Kevin Pillar of extra-bases — and the Jays of probable runs — in the first inning, when he made a last-gasp, over-the-shoulder catch on the warning track, with Curtis Granderson and Solarte at second and third base, respectively. Culberson smacked into the wall before landing on his back with the ball still safely in his glove for the third out of the inning, earning celebrations from his teammates on the field as well as appreciative applause from the crowd.

“Big play early, Culberson running down Pillar’s ball,” Gibbons said. “That’s a couple of runs right there. Tough night.”

Walks killed Garcia in the second frame, Gibbons said. Culberson was on base by way of a walk in the second when third baseman Johan Camargo, hitting at the bottom of the Braves’ order, hit his first career grand slam off Garcia to give Atlanta a 4-0 lead. Camargo went 4-for-5 with five RBIs. Ender Inciarte, the No. 8 hitter, added three hits and three RBIs.

Maile got Toronto on the board with an RBI groundout in the bottom of the second, one of four runs off the Braves’ Canadian starter, Mike Soroka. But Culberson cancelled that out, and added to his highlight reel, with a fourth-inning solo homer.

That’s when Gibbons called Danny Barnes from the bullpen, still hoping Toronto could salvage the game.

“We went to the pen early, tried to at least … we were getting some hits, maybe we had a chance to come back,” he said.

But the Braves pulled away with three runs and three hits off Barnes in the fifth. A two-run double from Solarte in that same frame wasn’t enough to get Toronto within striking distance, and Preston Guilmet and Aaron Loup surrendered three runs between them in the eighth and ninth.

Despite Garcia’s poor showing, the Jays did have some good news on the rotation front: Marcus Stroman (right shoulder fatigue) rejoined the team and is expected to make his first start since May 8 during Toronto’s upcoming road trip.

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The bottom hits Garcia as Braves roll past Blue Jays