Alek Manoah's season went from bad to worse on Monday night.
The Blue Jays right-hander gave up six earned runs and lasted just one-third of an inning as the Houston Astros dumped Toronto 11-4 at Rogers Centre.
"(I) understand this game is hard," Manoah said. "It's going to kick you in the butt. But that doesn't change how we work. We're not going to give up on that.
"We're going to keep going at it and we'll find a way to push through."
Corey Julks delivered the big blow with his first career grand slam. Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker chipped in with RBI singles in the opening frame as the Astros had seven hits against the Toronto right-hander.
Manoah (1-7), who hasn't won a decision in two months, had his earned-run average jump by nearly a run to 6.36. It was the shortest outing of his career.
"Manoah wasn’t himself," said Astros manager Dusty Baker. "That helped us a lot."
Manoah gave up a single to Mauricio Dubon on the first pitch of the game and things went downhill from there.
Two singles, a flyout, another single and a walk preceded the no-doubt Julks blast that landed just inside the left-field foul screen.
"I thought it was a really good sinker at the knees and he kind of just ambushed it and hit a home run," Manoah said. "A lot of the things I'd been working on, (I) didn't have a chance to really go out there and use (them)."
An American League Cy Young Award finalist last year, Manoah has struggled in most of his 13 starts this season.
He excelled in a one-hit, seven-inning victory over Kansas City on April 5 and pitched well in an April 22 no-decision in New York. But Manoah hasn't made it past the sixth inning since.
The Blue Jays have lost nine of the last 10 games that he has started.
"You've got to continue to do whatever is best for him to help him get better," said Toronto manager John Schneider. "That's what we're going to do, starting tonight and going forward.
"That's been our focus the whole time so we'll continue to do that."
Schneider said before the game that the possibility of sending Manoah down to the minors wasn't on the table. It will be interesting to see if this latest start changes that.
The 2022 all-star looks lost on the mound, sapped of the confidence and swagger that was a trademark over his first two big-league seasons.
"We're talking about a really good pitcher," Schneider said. "It's been a tough go for him. He understands that. There's no concern but I think the main focus is just do whatever we need to do to get him better."
Alejandro Kirk put Toronto (33-28) on the board in the second inning with a solo shot off Houston starter Brandon Bielak (3-2).
Daulton Varsho added a solo shot in the eighth. Bo Bichette, Varsho and Kevin Kiermaier had two hits apiece for the Blue Jays.
Alvarez and Tucker hit solo homers in the fourth inning as Houston (36-24) ended Toronto's four-game winning streak. Jake Meyers piled on with a two-run blast in the fifth.
Bielak allowed three earned runs and 10 hits over 6 2/3 innings. He had two strikeouts and issued one walk.
Yainer Diaz and Meyers both had four hits for Houston. The Astros have won eight of their last 11 games and 19 of 25.
Scattered boos were heard from the Rogers Centre crowd of 23,982 when Manoah loaded the bases and again after the grand slam. Schneider was cheered as he came out to make the pitching change.
Manoah, the team's Opening Day starter and ace at the start of the season, walked slowly back to the dugout. He was sporting a despondent look as he took a seat on the bench as Jay Jackson relieved him on the mound.
"Anybody who's struggling, you've got to try to find some positives," Manoah said. "If you get caught in the negatives, you'll never see the positives."
Houston outhit Toronto 19-12 in a game that took three hours one minute to play.
A moment of silence was held before the game for longtime Blue Jays coach John Sullivan, who died Thursday at age 82.
Sullivan spent parts of five seasons in the big leagues as a catcher and was a coach for the Blue Jays for more than a decade. He retired after Toronto won a second straight World Series title in 1993.
Right-handers were scheduled to square off on Tuesday night as the four-game series continues.
Kevin Gausman (4-3, 2.76) was tabbed to start for the Blue Jays against Hunter Brown (5-2, 3.61).
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 5, 2023.