The Detroit Tigers (65-66) earned a series split with the Toronto Blue Jays (68-62) after a second straight dominant start from Rick Porcello. Max Scherzer got the ball rolling on Thursday night with his 10th win of the year only to watch the Tigers lose a heartbreaker in extra innings on Friday and then fall just short of a 9th inning comeback on Saturday afternoon. Porcello stepped in and saved the series with his 2nd consecutive dominant outing. Detroit cruised on Sunday afternoon for a 10-4 win.
The series finale was a tight one until the 6th inning when the suddenly red-hot Casper Wells smoked a bases loaded double over Vernon Well’s head in center for a 2-run double. The double put Detroit up 4-0 and the rest was history. Ryan Raburn piled on with a solo homer in the 7th and a 3-run blast in the 8th to give Detroit a nice cushion. Raburn now has 10 homers and an impressive 44 RBI’s despite his limited role this year. He too has caught fire lately, very much like he did in the 2nd half last year when he started getting regular at-bats. Ryan has his average up to .254 with another 2 hits on Sunday.
Miguel Cabrera and Casper Wells had 2 hits apiece to help back Porcello’s effort. Rick went 7 innings, giving up just 3 hits and a run with no walks, while striking out 4. He looked very dominant against an elite offense, unlike his last outing against the lowly Royals, whom he also abused. Porcello’s fastball had nasty sink action to it and Toronto never got anything going against him. The win bumps his season record to 7-11 and his ERA continues to tumble, now down to 5.20. The only bad news on Sunday was Jose Valverde coughing up a 3-run homer to Adam Lind in the 9th. The game was out of reach and the homer was insignificant. What is significant is that Jose has lost command of his once unhittable splitter. His ERA is all the way up to 3.27 and Detroit can no longer count on him as a sure fire thing in the 9th inning.
Game 1 of the series on Thursday saw yet another rock solid performance from Max Scherzer. Max earned his 10th win of the year and for the first time all year long has his record above .500. Masterful Max K’d 8 over 8 innings to propel the Tigers to a 7-1 win. He allowed 6 hits and a walk and now has 142 K’s on the year and a 3.60 ERA. The only run Max allowed was a solo homer to Jose Bautista in the 7th, his 41st of the year.
A 6-run 4th inning off of Jays starter Ricky Romero was all the love Scherzer would need in this start. A potentially inning-ending double play off the bat of Ryan Raburn that was thrown wild by 3rd baseman Edwin Encarnacion scored the first run and extended the inning for the Tigers. As luck would have it, the next batter up, Jhonny Peralta, belted a 3-run homer to deep left-center to put Detroit up 4-0. The homer was Peralta’s 13th of the year combined between Cleveland and Detroit. Three batters later, Gerald Laird pounded his 4th homer of the year, a 2-run shot, to put the game out of reach.
Game 2 of the series wasn’t decided until the 11th inning when Aaron Hill hit an RBI single off of Phil Coke to give the Jays a walk-off 3-2 win. Justin Verlander deserved a better fate in this one but Jays starter Shaun Marcum was equal to the task. Marcum allowed just 1 run over 6 innings but did give up 8 hits and 2 walks along the way. Verlander threw a season-high 127 pitches over 8 innings. He allowed 2 runs and struck out 8. Jose Bautista hit his 42nd homer of the year in the 4th to start the scoring and Adam Lind cranked his 18th in the 7th inning to account for the damage against JV.
Miguel Cabrera pulled his 32nd homer of the year off the foul pole in left to tie the score at 1-1 in the 6th. With the Tigers down 2-1 going into the 9th, Austin Jackson tripled to start the inning against close Kevin Gregg. With 1 out, Johnny Damon fell behind in the count quickly but battled back to a full count and eventually laced a hard grounder through the right side to tie the game and force extras. Unfortunately, Coke couldn’t hold serve in the 11th and the Jays stole a win from the Tigers to even up the series.
Game 3 was compromised right from the get go as Jeremy Bonderman missed his scheduled start due to a sore side. Hang in there JB! Sounds like a rough one. Anyhow, Alfredo Figaro got the spot start and struggled out of the gate as he always seems to do. He allowed 3 in the 1st to the Jays, powered by a Jose Bautista 2-run triple to right-center.
Miguel Cabrera battled back in the 2nd with a bomb shot to left for his 33rd homer of the year. Estimated distance on the homer was 440 feet. The Tigers fell behind 5-1 on a 3rd inning RBI double by Lind and a 6th inning RBI double by Travis Snider. The Tigers showed good fight in the top of the 9th. Jackson was hit by a pitch, Raburn doubled, Brandon Inge K’d, and Jhonny Peralta walked to load the bases with 1 out for Alex Avila. Avila grounded out to first to score Jackson and narrow the gap to 5-2. Kevin Gregg came in to close it out and Casper Wells promptly hit a 2-run double to pull Detroit within 1. Ramon Santiago struck out to end the game.
Up next for the Tigers is a 3-game series with the 1st place Twins starting Tuesday night in Minnesota. The Tigers are virtually out of the race at this point, but anything is possible. However, for anything to be possible here, the Tigers will need an improbable road sweep of the Twins to get their heart started again.