MILWAUKEE -- Matt Garza was knocked around for the first time this season on Wednesday as the Brewers continued to challenge the thesis that teams are only as good as their starting pitching.
Garza surrendered a trio of solo home runs and was charged with six earned runs in an 8-4 loss to the Blue Jays at Miller Park, snapping his streak of four quality starts and inflating the ERA of Brewers starters this season to 4.76, or 24th of 30 Major League teams. Brewers starters are 25th with 1.43 walks plus hits per inning pitched, and tied for last with the Marlins with 14 quality starts.
And yet, the team sits atop the National League Central at 25-21. The Brewers, Indians and Tigers are the only teams with winning records in spite of starters' ERAs north of 4.50.
"There's always room to keep getting better," Garza said. "We've got a lot of young guys, and I don't mean in age, I mean in time. Experience. Junior [Guerra] has got four, five months in. [Zach] Davies has a year. [Chase] Anderson has two. Jimmy [Nelson] has got two. These guys don't add up to half of my time. So there's definitely going to be a learning experience for these guys.
"And for myself, I'm changing who I am, learning to adapt on the fly. There's going to be days like this where you do get beat. I have to come in tomorrow and be ready to work, be an example of 'don't let it take you down. Keep going, stay calm, stay level and keep riding that same plane every time out.'"
Garza is incorporating more offspeed pitches into his repertoire to account for a fading fastball, and the results -- Wednesday notwithstanding -- have been promising. Garza entered the day with a 2.43 ERA, including 1.89 in May while going 3-for-3 in terms of quality starts.
For three innings against the Blue Jays, Garza did not surrender a baserunner. His outing began to unravel at the start of the fourth, when Garza hung a slider and Kevin Pillar hit it for a tying solo home run. Jose Bautista hit a fastball for a go-ahead home run two batters later. In the sixth, Devon Travis hit a third solo shot against Garza and Ryan Goins hit a grand slam off Oliver Drake with two of Garza's runners on base.
The Brewers already made one change to their starting rotation by bumping Wily Peralta to the bullpen, and by the time Garza pitches again, they will have restored their Opening Day starter to the rotation.
Junior Guerra, sidelined after three 2017 innings by a left calf strain, is scheduled to return from seven weeks on the disabled list on Friday night against the D-backs.
"For the most part, I think they're doing their job, and doing what we need them to do," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "We're supporting them with a bunch of runs. That's kind of the stage we're in. Every season is going to be a little different. The starters will go on a run where they help us win a lot of games. I think early in the season, there were times they were helping us, big-time.
"So these are our guys, and they're doing a good job, I think. They'll continue to be out there. These are the five guys who will continue to be out there."
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.