Tulo, Blue Jays rally late to sink Tigers in 6th straight
By Gregor Chisholm and Jason Beck
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays' six-game winning streak is alive and well, thanks to a timely hit by Troy Tulowitzki.
Tulowitzki came through with a two-run single in the bottom of the eighth inning as Toronto jumped in front and then held on for a 5-4 victory over Detroit on Thursday night at Rogers Centre. The win allowed the Blue Jays to pull within two games of Baltimore for first place in the American League East, while the Tigers dropped to two games in back of the second AL Wild Card spot.
"We're feeling pretty good right now," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "Guys are pretty confident, they're swinging it. ... Even earlier in the season when we were struggling more, we made the pitchers work. We just couldn't come up with the big hit to knock them out. For the most part, the last few weeks, that's what we've been doing, we've been getting the big hit."
Detroit seemed poised to end Toronto's winning streak after it carried a 4-3 lead into the eighth, but the Tigers' bullpen could not close it out. Left-hander Justin Wilson took the loss after he allowed a pair of runs on three hits and a walk over 1 1/3 innings. The runs were charged to him after he loaded the bases in the eighth and was relieved by Alex Wilson, who gave up the Tulowitzki single.
"You don't want to put a lot of people on base when you're facing a lineup like that," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "Eventually, it's going to come back to haunt you."
Justin Upton went 2-for-4 with a homer and two runs scored for the Tigers, while Nick Castellanos also delivered his 17th home run of the season. Right-hander Justin Verlander allowed two runs over 5 2/3 innings and was in line for the win before the Jays' rally.
Blue Jays outfielder Michael Saunders had yet another impressive showing at the plate, as the AL Final Vote leader went 2-for-4 with an RBI and three runs scored. Josh Donaldson, Kevin Pillar, Darwin Barney and Tulowitzki also enjoyed multiple hit nights, as Toronto managed to survive despite going 3-for-17 with runners in scoring position and leaving 14 men on base.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Tulo comes clutch: The Blue Jays squandered plenty of run-scoring opportunities on the evening, but finally broke through in the bottom of the eighth. After back-to-back singles opened the inning, an Ezequiel Carrera rundown between third and home looked as though it would cost the Blue Jays another opportunity before Tulowitzki's go-ahead single with two outs gave them the lead. Prior to that point, Toronto was 2-for-16 with runners in scoring position and had left 12 men on base.
"I think, if anything, it shows the fight that this team has, just keep getting guys on base," Tulowitzki said. "Sooner or later, this lineup, you feel very strongly someone is going to come through if you can get 15 runners in scoring position. I think that's how I look at it. Sooner or later we'll get it done." More >
Castellanos crushes again: Castellanos continued his charge to the All-Star break with his third home run in as many games, and possibly his longest of the three. He sent a Drew Hutchison fastball off the facing of the second deck in center field for a fourth-inning solo shot to tie the game.
"You need contributions from other spots when your main guys are struggling a little bit," Ausmus said.
McCann contributes at plate:James McCann hadn't driven in a run or recorded an extra-base hit since June 23, but he did both on Thursday to help produce half of Detroit's offense. His two-out single in the fourth, three batters after Castellanos' homer, plated Justin Upton for a 3-2 lead. Three innings later, his leadoff double set up an insurance run, scoring on an Ian Kinsler double-play grounder.
"It's been a process," McCann said. "I'm just trying to stick with what I'm doing."
Captain Canada: Saunders gave the Blue Jays an early lead with an RBI single in the bottom of the first inning. One batter later, he came around to score when catcher Russell Martin doubled off the wall in right field to put Toronto in front 2-0. Saunders has at least one RBI in five of his last six games as he continues to make a case for why he should be voted into the All-Star Game. More >
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Toronto is 10 games above .500 (49-39) for the first time this season. The club also has won six games in a row for the first time since Sept. 23-30, 2015.
Toronto lost a crucial challenge in the bottom of the sixth inning. With runners on second and third and the Jays down one, Carrera tried to lay down a safety squeeze bunt with one out. Carrera executed the bunt down the first-base line, but Verlander quickly got to the ball and fired a strike to McCann at home. Pillar dove head first and umpire Andy Fletcher called him out on a very close play. Gibbons challenged, and following a review of two minutes and 38 seconds, it was ruled that the call on the field stands. That means there was not sufficient video evidence to overturn or confirm the call.
"He was bunting on his own. I didn't really like that. Second and third, the infield back, that's the go-ahead run at second base. Unless you get a knock there, you only plate one run ... when you got a chance to get a ground ball to tie it, maybe sneak one through and get the go-ahead run. I don't think I've ever squeezed." -- Gibbons, on Carrera's bunt in the eighth inning
WHAT'S NEXT Tigers:Mike Pelfrey (2-7, 4.78 ERA) will try to extend his unbeaten streak to five starts when he takes the mound for Detroit in the second game of this series Friday at 7:07 p.m. ET. Pelfrey took a no-decision with 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball on Sunday at Tampa Bay.
Blue Jays: Left-hander J.A. Happ (11-3, 3.54) will make his final start before the All-Star break when the Blue Jays continue their four-game series against the Tigers on Friday night at Rogers Centre. Happ has 11 wins this season, which is the most by a Toronto pitcher prior to the break since Roy Halladay had 11 in 2008.