By Gregor Chisholm and Keegan Matheson
TORONTO -- Brett Anderson appears to be making up for lost time and is using the final stretch of the year to make a statement before heading into the offseason.
Toronto's veteran lefty limited the Tigers to a pair of runs over six strong innings in a 5-4 victory on Saturday afternoon at Rogers Centre. It was the third time in as many starts that Anderson surrendered three runs or fewer as the pending free agent continues to enjoy a positive audition in the Blue Jays rotation.
Kevin Pillar provided some of the run support by going 4-for-4 with a solo home run and a pair of RBIs. The potential American League Gold Glove Award winner also made another sensational grab by taking extra bases away from Dixon Machado with a leaping catch in center field in the fifth.
Anderson has battled a number of injuries over the years and was released by the Cubs earlier this season following a disappointing stint in Chicago, but he's found a comfort zone at the right time.
"I felt strong, it was the same amount of ups and downs but it was like 30 more pitches this outing and I felt just as strong at the end as I did last outing," said Anderson, who allowed five hits and did not walk a batter while striking out five.
"I feel like my body is building up and I'm able to go out there for lengthier periods of time going forward, and it was good to get my first Blue Jays win."
The loss went to Tigers reliever Warwick Saupold, who allowed two runs on two hits over just two-thirds of an inning. He entered with two outs in the fifth, but was responsible for Toronto's two runs in the sixth. Saupold also didn't get very much help from left-hander Daniel Stumpf, who retired just one of the three batters he faced in the sixth.
Miguel Cabrera opened the scoring in the top of the first inning with a two-run shot to left-center field for his 15th home run of the season. Third baseman Jeimer Candelario added a pair of hits, including his fifth double of the year, and also scored two runs.
"He's been most impressive at the plate with his maturity," manager Brad Ausmus said of Candelario's performance. "A young guy taking a leadoff walk right there in the ninth inning of a save situation again speaks to the maturity and awareness he has of what's going on around him. He's not overly excited or too amped up and letting the emotions get the best of him."
Detroit made a late run in the top of the ninth inning. Toronto handed the ball to right-hander Ryan Tepera, as closer Roberto Osuna was unavailable because of a sore neck, and the Tigers scored two before moving the tying run to third base. Left fielder Andrew Romine then stepped to the plate and worked the count full before he struck out looking.
"I actually thought we were going to snatch that one back from them," Ausmus said.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Rising to the occasion: Pillar has made highlight-reel catches part of his regular routine and he was back at it on Saturday afternoon. In the top of the fifth, Pillar made a leaping grab at the wall to rob Machado of at least a double. Toronto's center fielder followed up the spectacular grab by hitting a solo homer in the bottom of the sixth to put the Blue Jays in front, 3-2. According to Statcast™, Pillar's 15th shot of the season was projected to travel 363 feet and left his bat at 102 mph.
"The home runs happen less frequently, so those are always special," Pillar said. "I'm not a guy who hits a ton of home runs, so when you get them, they definitely feel good."
Morales dashes home: No one is ever going to accuse Kendrys Morales of being light on his feet, but surprisingly enough he used his legs to score a sneaky run in the fourth. With runners on the corners and two outs, Teoscar Hernandez made a late break for second base. Tigers catcher James McCann came up throwing, but as soon as he released the ball Morales took off for home. Hernandez stopped running to second and instead got caught in a rundown and Morales scored before he was tagged. Morales was not credited with a stolen base on the play and instead advanced on the throw per the official scorekeeper.
"Nobody in the world is expecting Kendrys [to take off]," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "If he throws through, even [Morales] can get a good start. He can put it in his book some day but you probably won't see it again.
"We talked about it early in the game, he was on third base earlier in the game, same situation. We said, 'Take a bigger lead, they're not going to pay attention, especially if the third baseman's off a little bit. Who knows what might happen?'"
"Osuna had a bad neck today, so he couldn't pitch. That's why we went [with Tepera]. Everybody thinks it's easy to close. Nothing's easy, but he got the job done." -- Gibbons, on Tepera in the ninth inning
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS Jose Bautista's strikeout in the sixth inning was his 150th of the year. That's nine shy of the Blue Jays record set by Kelly Johnson in 2012 and Jose Canseco in 1998.
ROMINE ROBS MAILE
Romine was a late addition to Detroit's lineup on Saturday in Toronto but made an early impact, stealing a hit away from Blue Jays catcher Luke Maile with a diving catch.
Maile turned on a pitch from starter Chad Bell in the bottom of the second and drove it toward the corner in left, but Romine made a quick break on the ball and extended fully to make the play. Statcast™ scored the play as a 4-star catch with a 46 percent catch probability and an opportunity time of 3.6 seconds.
WHAT'S NEXT Tigers: Right-hander Anibal Sanchez (3-3, 7.07 ERA) returns to the mound for Sunday's finale at Rogers Centre after lasting just five pitches in his last outing. Sanchez took a line drive off his leg and was removed from that start, and coming off a brief stint on the disabled list in August, he'll be looking to finish a difficult season with some momentum. First pitch is scheduled for 1:07 p.m. ET.
Blue Jays: Left-hander J.A. Happ (7-10, 3.85) will take the mound when this three-game series comes to an end. Happ has allowed one earned run during each of his last two starts after surrendering 10 runs over his previous 11 innings. He will be making this start on one extra day of rest.