TORONTO - The Mets' team charter did not land in Canada until around 3 a.m. yesterday. Even before his team took the field for batting practice, manager Terry Collins wondered if some fatigue had taken hold.
Certainly, it couldn't have helped the Mets, who absorbed an 8-0 loss to the Blue Jays despite a solid start out of Jonathon Niese.
"He pitched absolutely outstanding," Collins said of Niese, who tamed one of baseball's most dangerous lineups.
The Blue Jays do most of their damage against lefties. Against southpaws, they entered play leading all of baseball in average (.313), on-base percentage (.372) and slugging (.504).
Nevertheless, Niese danced around trouble, holding the Blue Jays to three runs on seven hits in seven innings.
"Basically stuck to our game plan, kept them off balance, kept them guessing," said Niese, whose lone mistake was a poorly placed changeup that Kevin Pillar slammed for a homer.
But Niese (3-7, 4.21 ERA) got little help from an offense that finished 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and stranded seven against Blue Jays starter Drew Hutchison (6-1) and four relievers.
Curtis Granderson and Ruben Tejada each doubled. Michael Cuddyer also added a double in his return to the lineup after being rested in two of the Mets' previous three games.
None of them managed to advance even a single base.
Now, the Mets will turn to Bartolo Colon Thursday night to earn a split at Rogers Centre. He will be opposed by former Mets Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey.
The first-place Mets (36-31) had won three straight and five of their last six. But for the first time in three meetings, the Blue Jays' high-powered offense came alive, pulling away after chasing Niese.
The Blue Jays blew the game open with a five-run eighth, when they gave rookie Akeel Morris a rough indoctrination to the major leagues.
"It's what you dream of, to get out there and be in the big leagues," said Morris, who found some perspective despite a nightmarish debut.
Morris, 22, had been summoned on Sunday from Class-A Port St. Lucie as a short-term fresh arm for the overworked Mets bullpen. But he looked badly overmatched.
Without command of his changeup, perhaps his best pitch, he allowed three hits, walked three and failed to cover first base on Ezequiel Carrera's bunt single to extend the inning.
The biggest blow came when Danny Valencia's three-run blast into the leftfield stands put a exclamation point on the Mets' brutal night. After the game, Morris was sent to Double-A Binghamton in favor of righthander reliever Logan Verrett, who was selected from Triple-A Las Vegas.
The Mets trailed only 3-0 when Morris entered the game thanks to Niese, who limited damage with the help of a two double plays. The lefthander has not won since May 9 and has dropped five straight decisions.
But after a May swoon in which he battled with his mechanics, Niese put together his third straight quality start, an encouraging sign from the veteran lefty.
"You've got to tip your cap to them," he said. "It's a good offense."