DETROIT – When Justin Verlander and the rest of Detroit’s starting pitchers look ordinary, the Tigers are awfully beatable.
Verlander allowed five earned runs in seven innings, and Detroit lost 7-3 to the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday. Toronto completed a three-game sweep of the Tigers, who have dropped 13 of 17 after a 27-12 start.
“My fastball was great today, but I just missed some off-speed pitches,” Verlander said. “If I execute those four or five pitches, this would have been a fantastic game. I feel like I’m turning the corner with the mechanical adjustments I’ve made. I know the results don’t reflect that, but I felt great out there.”
The Tigers certainly hope Verlander can turn it around. Since May 19, Detroit’s starters are 3-9 with a 6.01 ERA.
Juan Francisco and Brett Lawrie hit consecutive home runs in the sixth inning off Verlander. The AL East-leading Blue Jays have won 19 of 23, including sweeps of defending champion Boston, AL West-leading Oakland and AL Central-leading Detroit.
“It’s a great atmosphere – we’ve got a lot of positivity in here,” Lawrie said. “Everyone likes to have fun, and everybody’s comfortable with one another.”
J.A. Happ (5-2) allowed three runs and seven hits in 6 1-3 innings for Toronto. Casey Janssen got the final out for his 10th save in 11 chances. He needed only one pitch to retire Nick Castellanos on a line drive to left with two on.
Melky Cabrera also homered for the Blue Jays.
Verlander (6-5) allowed eight hits in seven innings. He walked four and struck out four. Toronto scored three runs each in the fourth and sixth.
“There was just one inning where a couple balls dropped or found a hole, and one inning where I hung a couple breaking balls,” Verlander said. “If I keep pitching like this, things are going to turn around. I know that for a fact.”
With the score tied at 3, Adam Lind drew a leadoff walk in the sixth. Francisco followed with a homer to right, and Lawrie’s drive to left made it 6-3.
It was the 10th homer of the season for each of them. Toronto has hit a major league-leading 87. The Blue Jays won despite the absence of slugger Edwin Encarnacion, who missed the game with a back issue.
The Tigers are still in first place, but their lead is down to 2 1/2 games over the Chicago White Sox. The last time Detroit endured a 4-13 stretch spanned the end of the 2010 season and the beginning of 2011, according to STATS. In 2011, of course, the Tigers began a streak of three straight division titles they’re now hoping to extend.
Detroit scored twice in the third and once in the fifth, but the Blue Jays had an answer each time.
Ian Kinsler opened the scoring for Detroit with an RBI triple and scored on Torii Hunter’s sacrifice fly. But Jose Bautista led off the fourth with a flyball that Hunter and center fielder Austin Jackson each seemed to expect the other to catch. Hunter ended up trying to make the play at the last second, and the right fielder was charged with a two-base error.
The Blue Jays eventually loaded the bases with one out, and Dioner Navarro hit an RBI single. Erik Kratz followed with a two-run single to put Toronto ahead.
Kinsler tied it in the fifth with an RBI groundout, but Toronto took the lead back for good the following inning.
Cabrera capped the scoring with a solo shot in the ninth, and he has 10 homers on the season as well.