<b.Tigers 3 Blue Jays 2
DETROIT — This is what the Toronto Blue Jays have apparently been reduced to: 45-year-old Omar Vizquel trying to steal second in the ninth inning of a one-run game.
Vizquel was caught by Alex Avila’s strong throw for the final out Wednesday night, and the Blue Jays lost 3-2 to the Detroit Tigers. Toronto has scored three or fewer runs in six straight games.
In fairness, Vizquel had been successful on his other three steal attempts this year — and Detroit closer Jose Valverde doesn’t hold runners well. But right now, it seems as though nothing is going right offensively for the Blue Jays.
“We’re struggling to score runs, so we’re trying to manufacture something with two outs,” manager John Farrell said. “Valverde has a slow release, so we were going to go after him even with medium-speed runners. We’re trying to force Avila into making a perfect throw, and he did. You just tip your cap on that one.”
Detroit’s Anibal Sanchez (2-3) allowed one earned run and five hits in 6 2-3 innings. He struck out six and walked two, leaving with the tying run on third base. The bullpen closed it out with Valverde pitching the ninth for his 25th save in 29 chances and 100th save as a Tiger.
Aaron Laffey (3-5) allowed two earned runs and five hits in six-plus innings. He walked three and struck out two.
“I’ve been working really hard on keeping my arm high and getting on top of my sinker, and it absolutely paid off today,” Laffey said. “I felt really good out there.”
The Blue Jays are still without slugger Jose Bautista, who has been out since mid-July with a left wrist injury. He’s expected to rejoin the team Friday.
Sanchez and Omar Infante both came to Detroit from Miami in the same trade last month, and each played an important role Wednesday. Infante’s triple in the fourth was Detroit’s first hit of the game, and he came home on a wild pitch to make it 1-0. Sanchez settled in nicely in what may have been his best outing with the Tigers. The right-hander allowed 12 runs in his previous two starts but stayed mostly out of trouble against Toronto.
“His stuff was really electric, probably as crisp as it’s been since we got him,” Avila said. “He looked great, using all his pitches. He had real good life on his fastball.”
Jeff Baker’s RBI single in the fifth made it 2-0, but the Blue Jays came back with an unearned run in the sixth. Rajai Davis walked, stole second and went to third on Sanchez’s error on a pickoff throw. He eventually scored on Edwin Encarnacion’s single.
But the Tigers didn’t have a monopoly on poor defence. Toronto shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria’s error allowed Austin Jackson to reach in the bottom of the inning. He was sacrificed to second and came in to score on Prince Fielder’s single. Davis’ throw home from left field nearly had Jackson, but the ball scooted away from catcher Jeff Mathis as Jackson slid home.
“I thought Aaron threw the ball really well,” Farrell said. “We had an error in one inning and missed a bang-bang play at the plate, and that puts you on the short end of a 3-2 scoreline.”
Hechavarria’s sacrifice fly in the seventh made it 3-2, and Sanchez left the game after that. Brayan Villarreal got Davis to ground out to end that threat.
In the eighth, Detroit’s Joaquin Benoit allowed a walk and a single, and an error put runners on second and third with two out. Yorvit Torrealba hit a flyball to centre for the third out.
Vizquel had a pinch-hit single before being thrown out to end it.
NOTES: Toronto 1B David Cooper left in the sixth with a jammed neck. He is day to day. Mathis came in to catch and Torrealba went to first, playing there for the first time in his career. … Laffey pitched three hitless innings to start the game. He’s holding hitters to a .176 average the first time through the order. … Toronto’s Colby Rasmus went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts. He’s in an 0-for-26 slump. … Detroit’s Justin Verlander (12-7) starts Thursday against Toronto’s J.A. Happ (2-1). Verlander threw a no-hitter against the Blue Jays last year.