Tigers 5 Blue Jays 2
DETROIT — There is a simple scouting report on Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander.
Get to him early.
That’s why, even though the Toronto Blue Jays led 2-0 after the second inning Thursday, manager Cito Gaston knew his team probably hadn’t done enough.
Toronto left the bases loaded in the first and, after John Buck’s two-run homer in the second, couldn’t get a runner home from third later in the inning. Sure enough, Verlander didn’t allow another run as the Tigers rallied for a 5-2 victory.
“We had more opportunities than we took in the first couple innings, that’s for sure,” Gaston said.
“It’s good to get two runs off the guy, but you don’t want to miss chances against one of the premier pitchers in the game.”
After giving up two runs on four hits and two walks in the first two innings, Verlander (12-5) only allowed four baserunners in his last six shutout innings.
“This was definitely satisfying, because I was able to abandon my game plan early, completely revamp the way I was pitching, and still have enough success to go eight innings and get us a win,” Verlander said. “I went to more off-speed stuff and kept them off balance.”
Ricky Romero (7-7) took the loss, giving up three runs on seven hits in seven-plus innings.
“Ricky threw the ball very well,” Gaston said.
“But they’ve got Johnny Damon, Magglio Ordonez and Miguel Cabrera in the middle of their batting order. It’s tough to get those guys out time after time.”
Damon started the eighth with a walk, bringing Shawn Camp out of the Toronto bullpen to replace Romero. Ordonez singled, moving Damon to second, and Cabrera followed with his third hit — a tie-breaking double into the left-centre field gap.
Cabrera has reached base in 32 of 33 games and is hitting .347 with 24 homers and 85 RBIs.
“He’s one of the best players in the game, and at some point he’ll probably go down as one of the best to ever play the game if he keeps his health,” Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. “You don’t find guys that have that kind of power and that kind of elasticity in their swings. When he’s locked in, he’s as good as it gets. That’s just the way it is.”
Ryan Raburn’s single gave the Tigers a 4-2 lead, and Gerald Laird added a sacrifice fly.
Jose Valverde pitched the ninth for his 20th save as Detroit won its second straight after a season-worst seven-game losing streak. Toronto lost for the third time in four games.
Both teams missed several chances to break the game open.
The Blue Jays loaded the bases in the first on a double and two walks, but Verlander got Aaron Hill to pop out and end the inning.
In the second, though, Lyle Overbay led off with a double and John Buck followed with his 14th homer of the season. DeWayne Wise tripled with one out in the inning — Toronto’s fourth extra-base hit in the first 10 batters — but was left stranded.
“It isn’t like we never did anything the rest of the night,” Buck said. “After the second inning, every time we hit something hard, it was either right at someone, or they ran it down.”
The Tigers didn’t get their first hit until the fourth, when Damon’s one-out double started what looked like a promising rally. Ordonez walked, and Cabrera followed with an RBI single that put runners on the corners.
Raburn, though, struck out and Ordonez was easily thrown out when he tried to score after the third strike rolled a few feet away from the catcher.
The Tigers threatened another big inning in the fifth, but only got Austin Jackson’s tying RBI single before Ordonez grounded out with the bases loaded.
Toronto also lost a chance on the bases when Yunel Escobar was thrown out trying to stretch a two-run double in the seventh.
“I’m sure our coaches will talk to him about that play,” Gaston said. “You can’t go for third in that situation unless you know you are going to make it standing up. You can score just as easily from second with two out as you can from third.”
NOTES: Blue Jays OF Fred Lewis sat out the game after straining his ankle Wednesday, but is not expected to miss significant time . . . Tigers rookie LF Brennan Boesch got a day off after going 1-for-14 in Detroit’s three-game series against Texas . . . The Blue Jays recalled IF Mike McCoy from triple-A Toledo before the game and sent down starting pitcher Marc Rzepczynski, who lost Wednesday night to Kansas City.