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MIN@TOR: Gibbons talks offensive slump and road trip

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays' offense was bound to struggle at some point, and it would appear as though early June is when the bats finally decided to go cold.

Toronto's lineup was the best in baseball through the first two months of the season. The club still finds itself near the top of almost every major offensive category, but the overall production has noticeably dipped in recent days.

The high-powered bats were missing in action again on Wednesday afternoon as Twins right-hander Phil Hughes tossed seven scoreless innings in the Blue Jays' 7-2 loss in front of 45,080 fans at Rogers Centre.

"I think we've cooled off pretty good, pretty much top to bottom in the lineup ... but that's the way it goes," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "Hughes was really good. He turned some corners since he moved to Minnesota.

"The key is you can't prolong the struggles. You've got to put an end to them. The bats will heat up again, hopefully sooner than later."

The Blue Jays entered play on Wednesday afternoon in danger of being held scoreless for the fourth time in five games. The only time that previously happened in franchise history was May 13-17, 1981, and it almost happened again until a late rally in the eighth inning.

Toronto has scored 10 runs over its past six games and is hitting .202 (34-for-166) over that same span. The struggles haven't exactly come against elite starting pitchers either as St. Louis' Jaime Garcia (5.47) and Minnesota's Ricky Nolasco (5.70) and Kevin Correia (6.11) all had ERAs above 5.00 before facing Toronto this week.

Designated hitter Adam Lind certainly wasn't concerned about the recent numbers after the afternoon loss. He quickly pointed out the previous production, which saw the Blue Jays score 36 runs in five games before the recent skid and the overall success in May, as the main reasons why.

"I think it just happens," said Lind, who is hitting .333 in 41 games this year. "It's impossible to keep a pace like we did for that two- or three-week stretch. We ran into some pitchers that were hitting their spots and not leaving things over the plate."

The only pitcher the Blue Jays have faced in recent days who has been enjoying a strong season is Hughes. Minnesota's right-hander encountered very little difficulty on Wednesday as he pitched around a pair of doubles by Erik Kratz and Lind in the first five innings.

Toronto's first best scoring chance came in the sixth, when the first two runners reached base, but Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Lind were then retired in order. That's a continuation of a recent trend which has seen the Nos. 3, 4 and 5 hitters combine for nine hits over the past five games.

Blue Jays rookie right-hander Marcus Stroman had another quality start but was still saddled with the loss. He allowed a pair of runs in the first inning on a two-run homer to Josh Willingham and was charged with three runs overall. Stroman has allowed four runs over his first 18 innings as a starter, with all three of his outings being registered as quality starts.

Willingham's home run meant the opposition has scored first in seven consecutive games vs. the Blue Jays. Over those seven games, Toronto has been outscored 13-4 in the first inning.

"Bad curveball," Stroman said of the pitch to Willingham. "It was probably the worst pitch of the outing. Just one of those that's supposed to be buried and just kind of hung up there, tried to do too much with it. I felt like I really settled in the second inning on, and then got up in the zone again a little later, around the fifth and sixth."

An RBI double by Bautista and a pinch-hit RBI single by Dioner Navarro broke the shutout bid in the eighth. But that was it, and the bats will need to turn it around quickly as the club departed after Wednesday's game to embark on a three-city road trip through Baltimore, New York and Cincinnati.

"The bats are going to come around, all the guys in the clubhouse are pretty positive about it, and I have 100 percent confidence in every single guy in that lineup, that the guys are going to start doing what they were doing at the beginning of the year," Stroman said. "It's close. Going into Baltimore and New York, just looking to win some games here in the next stretch."

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