Justin Verlander wasn't extremely efficient tonight, but he worked out of several jams to produce solid results. The Tigers' offense only scored three runs off Blue Jays' starter Drew Hutchison, which would have been enough for the win. Except that the bullpen coughed up the lead late, and the Tigers dropped the first game of the series.
The Blue Jays struck early and plated a pair of runs in the first inning off of Verlander. Josh Donaldson worked a walk, advanced to second base on a groundout, and scored on a single from All-Star final vote leader Michael Saunders, who in turn scored on a Russell Martin double.
Justin Upton answered in the second inning with a home run to center field, but the Tigers' offense was othwise quiet through the first few innings. They took the lead in the fourth inning, however, with a massive dinger off the bat of Nick Castellanos. A pair of singles followed him up and scored the go-ahead run, making the score 3-2, Tigers ' advantage.
The two runs in the first inning were the only runs Verlander would grant the Jays' high-powered offense, though he did find himself in trouble several times. He loaded the bases in the third inning but escaped by striking out Justin Smoak. There were runners on first and second with no outs in the fifth inning, but a couple more strikeouts averted the threat once again.
In the sixth inning, the Jays got the tying run to third base, but Verlander wiped him out by fielding a grounder and throwing home for a close tag at the plate. Shane Greene come on with two outs and, though he hit Donaldson with a pitch to load the bases, ended the threat with a strikeout.
The Tigers added a run in the seventh inning with a double from James McCann and a single from Jose Iglesias, but Shane Greene gave it right back in the bottom of the inning on a similar pair of hits. Justin Wilson relieved Greene and allowed a scary hit to deep center field, but ultimately ended the inning with the lead intact.
Wilson returned to protect the one-run lead in the eighth inning, but couldn't finish the job. Two singles and a walk loaded the bases before Alex Wilson was called on with two outs to put out the fire. Unfortunately, Troy Tulowitzki ripped a two-run single through the right side to take the lead, and Jays' closer Roberto Osuna set the Tigers down in order in the ninth.
The Tigers drop to 45-41 with the loss, but retain sole possession of second place in the AL Central. The Indians also lost tonight, so the Tigers remain 6.5 games back. They've got three more games against the Blue Jays before taking a few days off around the All Star Game.
Justin Upton: a home run and a single tonight. Could he have finally turned the proverbial corner?
Nick Castellanos: Big dinger. BIG DINGER. And a walk.
Miguel Cabrera: 0-for-4 with four runners left on base. Even the best have bad days.
Justin Wilson: The tying and go-ahead runs scored with Alex on the mound, but giving up a single to Tulowitzki is far more forgivable than loading the bases with a one-run lead.
STATS AND INFO:
- Justin Upton had his 16th multi-hit game of the season, and hit his ninth home run. Last year, his ninth (and 10th) home run came on May 17.
- Nick Castellanos' home run in the fourth inning left his bat at 108 miles per hour. It was his 17th of the year, after hitting only 15 home runs in nearly 600 plate appearances last season.
- James McCann broke out of a mini-slump, hitting a single and a double. He was 1-for-16 in the last five games, and this was his eighth multi-hit game of the season.
WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH: