The last time Justin Verlander faced the Toronto Blue Jays, he threw his second career no-hitter.
Facing Toronto for the first time this season, Verlander looks to help the Tigers complete a three-game sweep by handing the struggling Blue Jays a fifth straight defeat Thursday at Comerica Park.
Though Verlander (12-7, 2.53 ERA) is 2-2 with a 5.18 ERA in six starts versus Toronto, the reigning AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner struck out four and walked one when he no-hit the Blue Jays during a 9-0 win at Rogers Centre on May 7, 2011. With that effort, Verlander improved to 2-0 with a 1.44 ERA in his last three starts against Toronto.
He hopes to continue that success against the Blue Jays (56-67), provided he's more efficient than his last outing. Verlander allowed three runs and four walks in six innings while not factoring in the decision of a 5-3 home win over Baltimore on Friday."I was definitely out of sync," he said. "I wasn't quite right. I was able to keep us in the game."
Verlander hopes to do more as the Tigers (66-57) bid for their first three-game sweep of Toronto since Aug. 19-21, 2005. Anibal Sanchez threw 6 2-3 strong innings, Price Fielder had an RBI and Jose Valverde recorded his 100th save with Detroit as it won for the fifth time in seven games, 3-2 on Wednesday.
The Tigers are two games behind the AL Central-leading Chicago White Sox and one out of the second wild-card spot.
Fielder is 8 for 18 with five RBIs in his last six games since going 0 for 12 in his previous four contests. He's 6 for 16 (.375) with three doubles against scheduled Blue Jays starter J.A. Happ (2-1, 5.09).
After making four straight relief appearances since being acquired from Houston on July 20, Happ looks for a third straight win as he makes his fourth consecutive start. The left-hander allowed one run, two hits and struck out eight in six innings of a 3-2 win over Texas on Friday."I just wanted to throw everything with conviction, along with the cutter," said Happ, 2-1 with a 5.06 ERA as a starter for the Blue Jays. "Sometimes I don't quite throw that with enough conviction."
His only appearance against the Tigers came out of the bullpen July 28, when he pitched two scoreless innings in Toronto's 5-1 home victory.
Losers in seven of eight overall, the Blue Jays have scored three or fewer runs in six straight contests. Things could get even tougher for Toronto if first baseman David Cooper is unable to play after he left in the sixth inning Wednesday with a jammed neck. Cooper is hitting .371 (13 for 35) in his last nine games.
Toronto is already without injured regulars Jose Bautista , Brett Lawrie , Adam Lind and J.P. Arencibia. Bautista, who has not played since July 16 because of a left wrist injury, could return as early as Friday.
Blue Jays center fielder Colby Rasmus is 0 for 26 with nine strikeouts in his last six games.
|Toronto Blue Jays|
|August 22, 2012||David Cooper||Day-to-Day||Left game - jammed neck|
|August 19, 2012||David Cooper||Day-to-Day||Lower back tightness|
|August 12, 2012||Kelly Johnson||Day-to-Day||Groin injury|
|August 11, 2012||Colby Rasmus||Day-to-Day||Groin injury|
|August 04, 2012||Brett Lawrie||15-Day DL||Strained left oblique|
|August 03, 2012||Brett Lawrie||Day-to-Day||Left game - rib cage tightness|
|August 01, 2012||Ryan Raburn||15-Day DL||Sprained right thumb|
|July 07, 2012||Drew Smyly||15-Day DL||Right intercostal strain|
|July 07, 2012||Drew Smyly||15-Day DL||Right intercostal strain|
|July 02, 2012||Max Scherzer||Day-to-Day||Left hamstring soreness|
|June 25, 2012||Alex Avila||Day-to-Day||Left knee tendinitis|
|June 19, 2012||Jose Valverde||Day-to-Day||Right wrist|
DETROIT (AP) -- Austin Jackson usually covers Comerica Park's spacious center field with calming ease, rarely leaving his feet or having to dive for a ball.
When Anthony Gose lifted a fly to right-center with a man on second in the 10th inning, Jackson realized right away he would need a little extra effort to catch this one.
"It was one of those situations where if that ball drops, he's probably going to score. I knew in that situation I probably had to attempt to dive," Jackson said. "I knew it was going to be close."
Jackson's spectacular diving catch kept the game tied, and his Detroit Tigers eventually won it on Alex Avila 's RBI single with two outs in the 11th. The 3-2 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays gave the Tigers a three-game sweep and left them only 1 1/2 games behind the first-place Chicago White Sox in the AL Central.
"I haven't dove too many times. I probably could count on one hand," the speedy Jackson said. "I knew I had to get on my horses a little bit."
With runners on first and second in the 11th, Avila singled to right off Chad Jenkins (0-1). Gose played the ball on a hop and couldn't throw out pinch-runner Quintin Berry at home.
Joaquin Benoit (3-3) got the win. Justin Verlander struck out 12 in nine innings for the Tigers.
Detroit slugger Miguel Cabrera left in the second inning because of right ankle soreness, but Tigers manager Jim Leyland said he expects Cabrera to play Friday, possibly as the designated hitter.
J.A. Happ took a shutout into the eighth inning for Toronto, but the bullpen couldn't hold a 2-0 lead. Happ left the game after walking Avila with one out, and Jackson singled off reliever Brandon Lyon . After Omar Infante flied out, Darren Oliver came on to face pinch-hitter Brennan Boesch and allowed an RBI single.
With Prince Fielder batting, Oliver threw a wild pitch that allowed Jackson to score from third and tie the game at 2.
Edwin Encarnacion hit a two-run homer off Verlander in the fourth.
Happ allowed a run and four hits in 7 1-3 innings. He walked three and struck out seven.
Verlander allowed four hits and two walks in his first start against the Blue Jays since he threw a no-hitter at Toronto last year. With Jose Bautista , Brett Lawrie and J.P. Arencibia still recovering from injuries, the Blue Jays looked overmatched at times against last year's American League MVP and Cy Young Award winner. Verlander struck out Rajai Davis on three pitches to start the game and caught Adeiny Hechavarria looking with a sweeping breaking ball in the third.
Colby Rasmus was in an 0-for-26 slump when he hit a single to right to start the fourth. Encarnacion followed with his 33rd homer of the season.
Toronto has scored fewer than four runs for seven straight games. Jackson's terrific catch in the 10th - he secured the ball in the palm of his glove - gave the Tigers a little more time to score their third run.
"He made a great play," Gose said. "I didn't think he was anywhere near it and he came out of nowhere."
Jackson had been playing Gose a bit toward left-center, meaning he needed to run even farther to make the catch.
"He's made some great ones since he's been here. That's one of the best ones I've ever seen him make," Leyland said. "I thought there was no chance. ... I said, `Oh, my God, that's in the gap.' All of a sudden, out of nowhere came Austin. To me, that's one of the best catches he's made, probably because of the situation."
Jhonny Peralta led off the bottom of the 11th with a single, and Delmon Young hustled down the line on a grounder to third, beating the relay to first to prevent a double play. Berry ran for Young and stole second before Jeff Baker walked. Andy Dirks struck out, bringing Avila to the plate.
Happ, acquired by the Blue Jays from Houston last month, was the third straight left-hander to start for Toronto this series.
Verlander struck out the last two hitters in the sixth and then struck out the side in the seventh. His final strikeout was against Kelly Johnson in the ninth, giving Verlander 1,407 and moving him ahead of Jim Bunning for fifth place on Detroit's career list.
NOTES: Detroit reinstated RHP Al Alburquerque from the 60-day disabled list and optioned him to Triple-A Toledo. The reliever hasn't pitched this season after having right elbow surgery. ... The Tigers host the Los Angeles Angels on Friday. Detroit RHP Rick Porcello (9-8) takes the mound against Angels RHP Zack Greinke (1-2). The Blue Jays are at Baltimore. Toronto RHP Carlos Villanueva (6-3) takes on Orioles LHP Zach Britton (2-1).