Detroit Tigers bombed for 5 HRs in 9-3 loss to Blue Jays as skid hits 5 games

Detroit Free Press

TORONTO — The sound of fans singing “O Canada” filled the Rogers Centre as the Toronto Blue Jays prepared for their first home game of the season with an extraordinary pregame ceremony. The 42,053 fans, a sold-out crowd, were amped up for baseball’s return to their city.

A different feeling — Oh no — almost immediately infiltrated the dome, its roof closed against the 68-degree outside air.

In the beginning, Blue Jays ace Alek Manoah struggled to throw strikes and execute his slider. But the Detroit Tigers stranded too many runners early on, and not long after the missed opportunities, the Blue Jays’ offense injected life into the ballpark for the rest of the night.

“I was really encouraged by the at-bats early without the big knockout punch,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “We were probably a hit away a couple times from getting out of the game. … The score isn’t going to indicate some of the good that came out of the game because of the way they opened it up at the end.”

The Tigers were held scoreless over the final seven innings in Tuesday’s 9-3 loss in the first of three games. The Blue Jays grabbed the lead on back-to-back swings from Kevin Kiermaier and George Springer in the fifth inning.

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Kiermaier opened the bottom of the fifth inning in a full count. When Manning threw a 92 mph fastball in the upper-third of the strike zone, Kiermaier — who signed a one-year, $9 million contract in the offseason — drove the pitch for a solo home run to right-center field.

That swing tied the game at three runs.

Before Kiermaier could finish celebrating in the dugout, Springer unloaded on a first-pitch slider from Manning and sent the ball 403 feet to left-center.

That swing put the Blue Jays ahead, 4-3.

“I pounded the zone pretty good,” said Manning, who fractured the fifth metatarsal in his right foot on the final pitch of his outing. “Just really a couple solo home runs beat me. Other that that, I threw the ball well. I wish I could have a couple pitches back, but overall, I like my mindset. I attacked.”

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The Blue Jays scored their first two runs in the second and fourth innings.

Alejandro Kirk drilled an RBI single off Manning’s fastball in the second, then Matt Chapman — who has been crushing the ball this season — delivered a 423-foot solo home run off Manning’s fastball in the fourth. Those runs cut the Tigers’ lead to 3-2 entering the fifth inning.

Manning allowed four runs on six hits and one walk with three strikeouts across six innings, throwing 58 of 85 pitches for strikes. He flashed some of his best curveballs and sliders despite only generating three whiffs with them. The breaking balls were used for called strikes and weak contact early in counts.

His fastball, which averaged 92.8 mph, generated four of his seven whiffs.

“As far as pounding the strike zone, using all his pitches, being able to disrupt timing, there was a lot of good in tonight’s start for him,” Hinch said. “The score certainly doesn’t indicate how Matt Manning threw. We are very encouraged by that.”

In the eighth inning, the Blue Jays tacked on five runs, for a 9-3 advantage, against right-handed reliever Mason Englert. They scored on Bo Bichette’s solo home run, Brandon Belt’s single and Kirk’s three-run homer.

“It’s what they do,” Hinch said of the Blue Jays’ five homers. “They have a potent lineup. This offense has been being built for a few years, and you’re starting to see it come together a little bit.”

The Tigers (2-8) have lost five games in a row.

A homer and nothing else

The Tigers could have scored more runs.

They should have scored more runs.

But they didn’t.

“Great at-bats, good swings on pitches and only came up with the three-run homer,” said Kerry Carpenter, who started at DH. “But we’ll keep doing that, and that’s going to lead to some success.”

Manoah, who finished third in American League Cy Young voting last season, looked frustrated on the mound. With one out in the second inning, Javier Báez walked on six pitches — his third walk this season — and Spencer Torkelson reached on an infield single.

Facing Nick Maton, Manoah fell into a 2-0 count and left a fastball at the top of the strike zone. Maton, who crushes fastballs from right-handed pitchers, turned on the heater for a three-run home run to right.

It was his first homer as a Tiger.

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The Tigers kept applying pressure. The next three batters reached safely — Jonathan Schoop (single), Jake Rogers (walk) and Akil Baddoo (walk) — to load the bases with one out for Riley Greene.

Greene was called out on strikes.

Matt Vierling popped out to end the inning and strand the runners.

In the third inning, Schoop flied out to right field and stranded two more runners. Manoah threw nine pitches in the first inning, 42 pitches in the second inning and 22 pitches in the third inning, and although the Tigers made him work, they couldn’t score again.

Manoah allowed three runs on four hits and five walks with three strikeouts across 4⅓ innings, throwing 53 of 94 pitches for strikes. The Tigers rarely chased his slider outside of the strike zone.

Carpenter locked in but robbed

In the second inning, Kiermaier robbed Carpenter of a solo home run to straightaway center field. The center-field wall, measuring 400 feet from home plate, was dropped by 2 feet — from 10 feet to 8 — in the offseason when the Blue Jays changed their home’s dimensions.

The wall in center is the only area in the ballpark where a hitter can be robbed of a home run.

The other walls are too high.

“Maybe that’s why they left the fence a little shorter in center field,” Hinch said. “It was very unfortunate because that would have changed the whole direction of the game. Carp had a couple of near-misses, but they’re just near-misses.”

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Carpenter hit two of the four furthest balls in the game: 404 feet (with a 103 mph exit velocity) in the second inning and 402 feet (with a 103.9 mph exit velocity) in the fifth.

Both balls in play resulted in flyouts to center field.

Carpenter, who finished 0-for-3 at the plate, also worked a walk on three pitches in the third inning. The walk happened because of an automatic ball — due to a pitch clock violation from Manoah — in a 3-0 count.

“It’s frustrating because you want to homer,” Carpenter said. “But that’s why he gets the big bucks. He’s a heckuva player. You just got to tip your cap. I made a good swing, and he made a better play.”

Contact Evan Petzold at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.

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