MILWAUKEE — The Toronto Blue Jays are heading home with a sense of relief.
Outslugging one of the best teams in the National League can ease the sting of a 2-6 road trip.
Jose Bautista’s three-run homer capped a five-run sixth inning and Toronto snapped the Milwaukee Brewers’ five-game winning streak with a 9-5 victory Wednesday.
It’s time to start chipping away again in the AL East after falling a season-high nine games out of first entering the day.
“This has not been a good road trip for us, anybody will tell you that,” starter R.A. Dickey said. “The home run by Jose was the difference and you could kind of hear a collective sigh on the bench.”
Bautista hit a 1-2 pitch from reliever Brandon Kintzler into the Brewers’ bullpen in right field, scattering pitchers from their seats. The two-out homer made a winner of Dickey (10-12), who gave up five runs in 5 2-3 choppy innings.
“In reality, that’s baseball. You go through these stretches,” manager John Gibbons. “It doesn’t take much just to miss a ball.”
Dickey left after Carlos Gomez’s two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth made it 7-5. The bullpen held on from there, and Toronto got some extra cushion after Colby Rasmus hit a two-run homer, his 16th of the year, in the ninth.
The Blue Jays outhit the NL Central leaders 15-10.
Brewers manager Ron Roenicke pointed back to the sixth as a turning point.
“So tough inning, you know we come back and Gomey gets the two points and we get a little closer, and we give up another homer. So we just didn’t pitch that well today,” he said. “Offensively I thought it was really good day.”
LEARNING ON THE JOB
Rookie Jimmy Nelson (2-4) took the loss after allowing the first two runners to reach in the sixth. Facing a former Cy Young Award winner for the fourth straight start, Nelson gave up four runs and nine hits in 5 2-3 innings.
Roenicke said he thought Nelson threw the ball well, and credited the table-setters in Toronto’s order, Jose Reyes and Melky Cabrera, with hitting good pitches to get Nelson in trouble. Once again, the sinkerballer was doomed by one problematic inning.
“These are good hitters, and if you can’t put the ball where you want to — and we know he has good stuff — you still have to command the ball, and he’s going to continue to do better at that,” Roenicke said.
Milwaukee had the potential go-ahead run up with one out in the eighth and NL doubles leader Jonathan Lucroy at the plate. The .304 hitter hit a hard bouncer to reliever Dustin McGowan for an easy 1-6-3 double play.
Dickey, who won the Cy Young in 2012 while with the Mets, wasn’t much better after allowing eight hits. Gerardo Parra had a double and triple off Dickey, making him a career 6 of 9 off the knuckleballer.
“I expect more out of myself. Especially there in the sixth, I was one out away from it being a tolerable outing,” Dickey said.
Blue Jays: RHP Brandon Morrow, on the disabled list since May 3 because of a torn tendon in his right index finger, has “cut it loose” in throwing side sessions but isn’t at full strength, Gibbons said. Toronto hopes Morrow will be ready in September, likely out of the bullpen.
Brewers: Roenicke said he hasn’t started discussions about what to do with Mike Fiers once RHP Matt Garza returns from the disabled list with a rib cage muscle injury. Garza will go back into the rotation when ready, likely in early next month. Fiers is 3-0 with an 0.86 ERA in three starts since being called up Aug. 9 from Triple-A.
Blue Jays: After an off-day, Toronto returns home to face the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday. RHP Marcus Stroman (7-4) will try to rebound from a rough outing, after he failed to get out of the first and allowed five runs on Aug. 15 to the White Sox.
Brewers: Milwaukee gets its second off-day in four days Thursday. RHP Yovani Gallardo (8-6) has a chance to put the struggling Pirates in deeper trouble in the NL Central when Pittsburgh begins a three-game series Friday.