TORONTO -- The Blue Jays spent the first seven innings of Thursday night's win looking like the team they were during the first month of the season. Solid pitching and defense, but a high-powered offense that could not find a way to come through with a timely hit.
Troy Tulowitzki made sure the similarities stopped there, as he came through with the go-ahead two-run single in the bottom of the eighth inning. With that one swing of the bat, Toronto went from a sure loss to extending its winning streak to six games with a 5-4 victory over the Tigers.
Prior to Tulowitzki's well-timed contribution, Toronto was 2-for-16 with runners in scoring position and had stranded 12 men on base. That could have led to a lot of frustration, but instead the Blue Jays kept grinding away until someone finally came through with the big hit.
"I didn't realize until after the game how many runners left on base we had," Tulowitzki admitted. "I felt like almost every inning we were threatening. So, yeah, it was nice to come through. We kept battling, the pitchers kept us in the game, we kept getting guys on base and then finally came through."
The Blue Jays had a seemingly endless number of prime opportunities against starter Justin Verlander and the Tigers' bullpen. Toronto loaded the bases in the third, had two runners on with nobody out in the fifth and the bases loaded again in the sixth, just to name a few. Each time, Detroit found a way to escape the jam.
That changed in the eighth when Ezequiel Carrera and Josh Donaldson led off with back-to-back singles. Three batters later, the bases were loaded once again, but Toronto still trailed by one, and with two outs, there was danger for yet another missed opportunity.
Tulowitzki then took matters into his own hands with a two-run single through the hole at second base. It was Tulowitzki's second hit of the night, and he is now batting .349 (22-for-63) over his last 16 games. Not bad for a guy who struggled to a .199 average over his first 47 games.
"He's on a nice little roll," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "Before he injured his leg, you could see it coming. Then after two weeks, he came out and has been smoking since. On both sides of the ball, playing great defense and really swinging the bat."
Toronto's six-game winning streak is a season high and the team's longest since Sept. 23-30, 2015. That enabled the Blue Jays to move 10 games above .500 for the first time this season, and they are suddenly within two games of Baltimore for first place in the AL East.
The Blue Jays definitely got off to a slow start this season, but nobody is talking about that now. It seems as though everything is finally coming together for a team that has been expected all year to contend with the best in the league.
"It's a different guy every night, good pitching, good defense and some timely hitting," Tulowitzki said. "I think that's the recipe that you hear teams talk about when they're on a winning streak."
Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.