It was a heck of a Major League Baseball initiation for Zach Eflin of the Philadelphia Phillies, and one he won't soon forget – for all the wrong reasons.
After starring this season in Triple-A, Eflin was promoted to start in Tuesday's game against Toronto. But the Blue Jays ruthlessly demonstrated that the leap from the Lehigh Valley (Pa.) Ironpigs to the big leagues is a large one indeed.
The 22-year-old was greeted in the second inning by a solo home-run shot off the bat of Kevin Pillar, and that was followed in the third inning by a two-run long ball from Ezequiel Carrera.
Then came singles by Pillar and Devon Travis and an intentional, two-out walk of Jose Bautista to load the bases for Josh Donaldson. The Toronto third-baseman had doubled in both his previous at bats against Eflin, in the first and second innings, and was clearly relishing the opportunity to inflict more punishment on the reeling rookie.
And Donaldson came through, lashing a lazy 1-1 slider that just curled fair around the leftfield foul pole for a grand-slam home run.
A double by Edwin Encarnacion followed, and Eflin's first shaky big-boy steps in the grown-up world of MLB had come to a merciful end.
The result was an 11-3 laugher for the Blue Jays (36-31) over the Phillies (30-35) in an afternoon tilt at Rogers Centre, ending a two-game mini-series in a 1-1 draw.
And Eflin said afterward he wouldn't have traded the experience, bad as it was, for the world.
"It was awesome," he said, a big grin pasted on his face. "I was obviously leaving some pitches up, and big league hitters are going to capitalize on that. It still was a dream come true. I was out there in front of 50,000 people playing the game that I love. I had the time of my life."
The two sides will resume hostilities on Wednesday in Philadelphia for another two-game series, the start of a five-game road journey for the Blue Jays that will also take them to Baltimore on the weekend.
Eflin lasted just 2.2 innings, allowing nine of the Toronto runs (eight earned) off nine hits, three of which were homers.
Toronto starter Marcus Stroman is not that far removed from his tentative beginnings as a big-league pitcher, and he said he felt for what Eflin must have been going through.
"Especially that first one can be discouraging," Stroman said. "But he's got great stuff, he's just got to learn to trust it. And I'm sure his next start hopefully he'll be better. But this is the big leagues, so it's tough. You can't let starts like that get to you."
Donaldson would finish the day going 3-for-4 with a walk, driving in five of the Toronto runs. The grand slam, his 15th home run of the season, was the third of his career and second this year.
Edwin Encarnacion belted his 16th home run of the season in the seventh inning, a two-run poke that completed the Toronto scoring on the day. It was Encarnacion's fourth home run over his last five games.
"Edwin's been doing a great job for us, driving the ball, hitting some big homers for us," Donaldson said. "Today I felt like it was a total team effort up and down the lineup.
"We did a great job of driving the ball and then getting some guys on base and then doing a good job with runners in scoring position."
Perhaps most gratifying for Toronto was that Stroman, who was viewed as the ace of the squad at the season's start, appeared back in form after several rough outings.
Stroman came into the game having failed to work six complete innings in three straight outings, and in four of his last five where his earned run average was an unsavory 7.58.
On Tuesday, Stroman was much more consistent, keeping his pitches low in the zone and limiting the effectiveness of the Philly hitters.
Stroman worked seven innings and allowed two runs off six hits, including a home run by Cesar Hernandez.
"I'm the shortest pitcher in the big leagues and I realize that, so I have to be very conscious about pitching down in the zone," the 5-foot-8 Stroman said. "And I am. Everything I do in between starts is to get me to that point where I can be on top of the ball."
Michael Saunders came out of the game for Toronto in the third inning for precautionary reasons after experiencing right hamstring tightness. The Blue Jays are hoping the leftfielder will not have to miss any extended time.
After the contest, the Blue Jays made a couple of roster moves, optioning lefthanded reliever Aaron Loup to their Triple-A affiliate in Buffalo. The Blue Jays also designated for assignment reliever Scott Diamond.
The Blue Jays will make corresponding roster moves before Wednesday's game in Philadelphia.