Tigers scuffle at the plate as Anibal drops debut

Tigers scuffle at the plate as Anibal drops debut

Tigers scuffle at the plate as Anibal drops debut
TORONTO -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland made it quite clear prior to the game that he was not pleased with the production he was getting from his offense.

Saturday's effort did nothing to change that. Detroit's offense was held in check for the second straight game, while Anibal Sanchez's Tigers debut didn't go according to script.

Sanchez was burned by three homers and backed by little support, as Detroit dropped its third consecutive game in a 5-1 loss to the Blue Jays in front of 41,832 at Rogers Centre on Saturday.

"I don't buy that, 'Poor me,' stuff. No excuses, we're not hitting," Leyland said. "We'll come back out of this again. But right now, you can't sugar coat it -- we aren't hitting, we aren't driving in runs."

Detroit, after averaging over five runs a game while winning eight of its first 10 games following the All-Star break, has lost four of its past five -- managing just 2.8 runs per contest over that stretch.

The only offense the Tigers could muster against Blue Jays starter Henderson Alvarez came in the fourth inning off the bat of Brennan Boesch. The right fielder drove in Delmon Young -- who hit a two-out single in the previous at-bat -- with a double to center to even the score at 1.

After that, the Tigers, who continue to trail the surging White Sox in the American League Central, were shut down by Alvarez.

"This game is tough sometimes, you just have to keep battling through," said Boesch, who had two of Detroit's five hits. "You would like to be more consistent and maybe make the tough stretches shorter, but we are a good team and will just continue to play hard every day and see what happens."

Alvarez lasted seven innings, allowing just one run on five hits to even his record at 7-7.

"I was really impressed with him -- he has a real live arm," Leyland said about Alvarez. "Looks like he might be a little erratic at times, but he has a good sinker, good velocity. He was impressive. I liked him a lot, he has good stuff."

Early on, it looked like the game had the makings of a pitchers' duel between the two natives of Venezuela.

Sanchez came out dealing, striking out the first two batters he faced and retiring six of seven through two scoreless innings to start the game.

He allowed a run in the third, before the parade of home runs began.

Sanchez served up a 1-1 fastball to Edwin Encarnacion, who smacked an opposite-field homer, his 28th of the season, to break the tie and put the Blue Jays ahead, 2-1.

The long ball would come back to bite Sanchez again in the sixth. The right-hander threw a 91-mph, first-pitch fastball to leadoff hitter Yunel Escobar, who responded by depositing it into the seats in left-center field for his seventh shot of the season.

"I missed [on] a couple [of pitches]. They swung a lot and were really aggressive on my first pitch," Sanchez said.

An inning after Escobar's solo shot, it was more of the same. After surrendering a leadoff double to Rajai Davis, Sanchez threw Colby Rasmus a 2-0 fastball that he hammered for a homer to right, which extended Toronto's lead to 5-1 and chased the righty from the game.

"It sure enough felt good, I know that," Rasmus said about his 18th homer of the season. "I think we just put some good at-bats [together] against him. He was throwing the ball well and he's a good pitcher, but we were able to just stay with our approach and what we were trying to do."

Leyland said it should have never gotten to that point, and was mad at himself for sending Sanchez out to work the seventh, feeling he should have pulled him after six, trailing, 3-1.

"I screwed it up, to be honest with you. I take full responsibility for that," Leyland said. "He has weapons and knows how to use them, can use any of them in any count. He has a good feel for pitching and doesn't panic. He will win games for the Tigers."

Sanchez lasted six-plus innings, allowing five runs on eight hits, while walking three and striking out three. The three homers he allowed matched a career high -- the last time it happened was at Coors Field last August as a member of the Marlins.

The three free passes were uncharacteristic for Sanchez, who entered the start having issued two or fewer in five consecutive starts.

He mixed in his full arsenal of pitches, breaking off a bunch of sliders early and got ahead in the counts often, throwing first-pitch strikes to 20 of the 29 batters he faced.

Sanchez, 28, lost to the Blue Jays for the second time this season. The first defeat came in Miami on June 22. Over two starts against Toronto in 2012, Sanchez is 0-2 with a 10.90 ERA.

The Tigers, losers of three straight for the first time since June 3-6, will turn to Doug Fister on Sunday looking to avoid a three-game sweep.

Chris Toman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.