TORONTO — The Detroit Tigers scored three runs in Thursday’s series opener against the Toronto Blue Jays.
One of those runs came in the eighth inning, after the Tigers started the frame with the bases loaded and no outs. Producing one run in that situation wasn’t enough to beat the American League East’s second-place team.
The Tigers lost, 5-3, in the first of four games at Rogers Centre in Toronto. The offense totaled four hits, three walks and six strikeouts, while defensive errors from shortstop Javier Báez and Jeimer Candelario led to a pair of runs for the Blue Jays.
“We had a huge chance with no outs, and you’d like to get a little bit more,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “I look back and see two errors that led to part of their scoring. We said before the series, if you give them extra outs, they’re a dangerous offense and will be really tough to keep down.”
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The Tigers (40-60) were haunted by Blue Jays third baseman Matt Chapman, who finished 2-for-3 with three RBIs and a walk.
Chapman, the seventh batter in the lineup, blasted his 17th home run, a two-run shot, on a changeup from left-handed starter Tyler Alexander for a 3-1 lead in the fourth inning and his 18th, a solo shot, on a sinker from right-handed reliever Angel De Jesus for a 4-1 advantage in the sixth.
“We pounded him in for the first homer, and then we just left a changeup too much middle,” catcher Eric Haase said. “We tried to get a ground ball right there. … The second one, we tried to elevate 0-2 and didn’t get it up there. You’re obviously going to make mistakes, it’s just tough when they leave the yard.”
Alexander, coming off 10 straight relief appearances and making his first start since April 29, gave up three runs (two earned) on five hits and one walk with one strikeout in four innings. He threw 46 of 69 pitches for strikes.
The Blue Jays tied the game, 1-1, when Alejandro Kirk singled to score George Springer in the third inning. Springer reached safely with one out because of a throwing error by Báez, his 13th error this year.
“They punish mistakes really well, at least they did with me tonight,” Alexander said. “Anytime I found myself (leaving the ball) over the plate, they hit it hard somewhere. One through nine, they can do that.”
Eighth is not enough
Trailing 4-2, the Tigers loaded the bases in the eighth against right-hander Yimi Garcia: Victor Reyes (double), Robbie Grossman (fielding error by shortstop Bo Bichette) and Javier Báez (four-pitch walk).
Miguel Cabrera flied out to Springer in shallow right field. Reyes wisely refused to test Springer’s arm strength, leaving the Tigers with the bases loaded and one out. Haase battled with Garcia, and on the ninth pitch, he delivered a sacrifice fly to deep right field, cutting the Tigers’ deficit to 4-3.
“He had trouble finding the strike zone,” Haase said. “I wanted to be patient. And then he just started filling up the strike zone with everything he had, so that (plan) kind of went out the window. I was just trying to stay alive and put something going forward.”
With two outs, the Blue Jays turned to righty closer Jordan Romano for a matchup with Candelario. He entered Thursday batting .458 (11-for-24) with two doubles, four home runs and nine RBIs in seven games (six starts) since the All-Star break.
Romano needed one pitch.
Candelario grounded out to second base on a slider, stranding Báez and Grossman on the corners. The Tigers finished 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position.
In the bottom of the eighth, the Blue Jays got the run back on Danny Jansen’s sacrifice fly. Lourdes Gurriel Jr., who scored on the play, reached safely to begin the inning on Candelario’s throwing error.
“We got to play clean,” Hinch said. “We’re not going to win games if we don’t play clean. When you play playoff-caliber teams — and we had San Diego and these guys — and then Minnesota and Tampa, it’s going to keep going with good teams this month. If you give them extra baserunners, you’re asking for trouble.”
The Tigers recorded their first run in the second inning, when Willi Castro — starting in center for the second time in July — whiffed on a first-pitcher slider before a second-pitch slider hung just below the middle of the strike zone.
That’s the area where Castro creates damage.
He blasted a solo home run, his third of the season, to right-center and put the Tigers ahead, 1-0.
Blue Jays left-hander Yusei Kikuchi, who entered with a 5.12 ERA, fired five innings of one-run ball in his return from the injured list. He allowed two hits and one walk with five strikeouts, throwing 46 of 67 pitches for strikes. He retired the final eight batters he faced.
Leadoff hitter Robbie Grossman opened the game with a ground-rule double, but the next three batters were retired.
“We didn’t get a lot of good at-bats,” Hinch said. “We knew it was going to be a short start for him coming off the injured list. When we had an opportunity, especially in the first after the leadoff double, he was able to squash it.”
The Tigers didn’t score again until the seventh inning against lefty reliever Tim Mayza. Jonathan Schoop attacked a two-strike slider at the bottom of the strike zone for a solo home run with one out.
It was Schoop’s seventh homer in 2022.
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