It was as if the air was sucked right out of the Rogers Centre. Toronto Blue Jays all star third baseman Josh Donaldson swatted a double into the right-field corner to bring his team within one run in their series opener against the Baltimore Orioles. As the elated crowd of 32,957 cheered home Jose Bautista, who himself had doubled to lead off the bottom half of the sixth inning, they almost instantly fell silent when Donaldson began to hobble toward second base, grabbing at his right calf.
Donaldson was quickly removed from the game, having seemingly aggravated a calf strain that he first sustained in spring training and which crept back up on him on Sunday and has since limited him to a designated hitter role.
There was no immediate word from the team on the extent of the injury, but there is reasonable cause for concern that Toronto's best player could be sidelined, and it couldn't come at a worse time.
The Blue Jays saw their winless streak reach six games on Thursday as Baltimore held on for a 2-1 win, dropping Toronto's record to 1-8.
The Blue Jays' inability to generate offence was once again front and centre. A day after they were shut out and a complete-game gem from Marcus Stroman wasted, Toronto's lifeless bats erased a serviceable appearance from starter Francisco Liriano, who struck out 10 and gave up a pair of earned runs over 6 2/3 innings.
The Blue Jays' lone run brought its grand total on the season to 24 – making them the lowest-scoring team in baseball. Let that sink in. For a team who has made a name for themselves tearing the cover off the ball the past three seasons, the Blue Jays' lack of offence so far in 2017 has them dwelling in the basement of the American League East.
The team is experiencing its longest losing streak since September, 2014, back when they were the fifth-highest scoring team in the majors.
In fact, no AL team has scored more runs than the Blue Jays since that season, so to see them languish near bottom of the league in nearly every offensive statistical category is concerning, no matter how early in the season it is.
Kevin Gausman was the latest opposing starter to shut down Toronto. The Orioles' right-hander pitched six innings and allowed five hits before turning the ball over the bullpen. From there, Darren O'Day, Brad Brach and closer Zach Britton combined for three innings of scoreless work to seal the deal.
The Jays were on the field early in the afternoon, hitting curveballs from a pitching machine as they prepared to face the hard-throwing Gausman, whose repertoire traditionally relies heavily upon a mix of a curveball, split-finger and slider when facing Toronto.
Those extra cuts didn't appear to do much good until sixth, when Bautista and Donaldson swatted their back-to-back doubles to make it a one-run game. That was as close as they would come.
Despite falling short offensively, the Blue Jays got the bounceback they were hoping for from Liriano, who struggled in his 2017 debut against the Rays last week. The lefty was removed after 1/3 of an inning that night after he gave up five earned runs on three hits in the shortest start of his career.
Through four innings Thursday he was strong, giving up three hits and one walk. The Orioles eventually broke a runless tie in the fifth with four straight hits that resulted in a pair of runs. The Jays were spared a third run that inning thanks to an ill-advised base-running decision by Trey Mancini, who attempted to score from first on a double to the centre field wall by Jonathan Schoop.
Mancini was gunned down at the plate after Troy Tulowitzki fielded a cut off throw from Pillar and relayed a one-bouncer to catcher Russell Martin to record the out. Bautista saved another run that inning when he made an inning-ending running grab before crashing into the wall to rob Adam Jones of extra bases with a runner on first.