TORONTO – A potent offense and solid starting pitching lifted the Detroit Tigers to the top of the AL Central.
They’ve been coming up short in both areas lately – and are in second place as a result.
Detroit goes for its first win in four games Sunday when the Toronto Blue Jays try for their first home sweep in this series in nine seasons.
The Tigers (53-48) averaged 5.7 runs with a 3.39 ERA from their rotation during a 13-2 run that gave then a 1 1/2-game division lead over the Chicago White Sox on July 22. The club has scored 14 runs during its 1-4 skid, with starters posting a 5.45 ERA.
Detroit hasn’t lost four straight since a season-worst five-game skid April 22-27.
“Right now, you can’t sugarcoat it, we’re not hitting,” manager Jim Leyland said after Saturday’s 5-1 loss. “We’re not driving in runs and we’re not hitting.”
The Tigers will try to salvage the finale with Doug Fister (4-7, 4.03 ERA) on the hill.
The right-hander is looking to rebound from a 3-2 loss at Cleveland on Tuesday, when he yielded three runs and nine hits as Detroit had its five-game winning streak snapped.
Fister fell to 3-1 with a 2.89 ERA in his last four starts, and now will try to help the Tigers avoid being swept in Toronto for the first time since Sept. 5-7, 2003.
The Blue Jays, winners of six of eight, are going for a season high-tying fourth straight victory as they give the ball to Brett Cecil (2-3, 5.82) in the finale of this six-game homestand.
The left-hander has surrendered five total runs while pitching six innings in each of his last two starts – both losses.
“Everything was working – changeup, curveball, cutter was working really well tonight, and fastball,” Cecil told the Blue Jays’ official website after fanning a season-high eight in Tuesday’s 7-2 loss to Oakland. “I felt like I could put pretty much any pitch wherever I wanted. It was really good.”
The Blue Jays (51-49) have done a poor job supporting Cecil – scoring once while he’s been in the game over his last two starts – but the club has been on a tear during its winning streak, hitting six home runs and scoring 23 times.
Edwin Encarnacion is 4 for 10 with two homers and five RBIs during that stretch and has taken over the team home run lead (28) from Jose Bautista, who has missed the last 10 games with a sprained left wrist.
“Encarnacion is hitting the ball out of the park almost every night it seems,” Tigers right fielder Brennan Boesch said.
Jeff Mathis, who is Toronto’s starting catcher with J.P. Arencibia on the disabled list with a fractured right hand, should be back behind the plate after rookie Yan Gomes started Saturday. Mathis, batting .419 (13 for 31) with two homers and seven RBis during a team-best eight-game hitting streak, is 3 for 6 versus Fister.
Rajai Davis is 9 for 22 against Fister.
First baseman Adam Lind could return to the Blue Jays’ lineup after missing the first two games of the series with lower back tightness.
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