TORONTO (AP) – Justin Verlander didn’t deliver another no-hitter. Still, he was encouraged about some minor fixes to his mechanics.
Verlander pitched seven shutout innings, Austin Jackson hit a two-run homer and the Detroit Tigers routed the slumping Toronto Blue Jays 11-1 Thursday night.
Verlander (9-5) allowed three hits, all singles, while winning for the first time since June 7 at Cleveland.
”He threw exceptionally well,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. ”He looked like he was in command the whole game.”
It was Verlander’s first start in Toronto since he pitched his second career no-hitter on May 7, 2011. He acknowledged thinking back to that game as he set down the first 11 batters, but his no-hit hopes ended with Edwin Encarnacion’s two-out single in the fourth.
”That was an impressive outing for him,” outfielder Torii Hunter said. ”I definitely think he figured some things out.”
Verlander started for the second time since tweaking his shoulder angle, a flaw identified by pitching coach Jeff Jones.
”I feel like Jeff and I have identified what was kind of the kink in the chain,” Verlander said. ”It’s just a matter making that feel comfortable, making my delivery feel comfortable the right way.”
Jackson went 4 for 5 with a walk and scored four times as the Tigers pounded out 16 hits while playing without achy slugger Miguel Cabrera.
”He’s the table setter, he’s the engine that makes this team go,” Hunter said of Jackson. ”I definitely think you’re talking about one of the best center fielders in the game, offensively and defensively. I’m impressed.”
Hunter had three RBIs and Prince Fielder drove in a pair of runs as the Tigers won for the ninth time in 11 meetings with Toronto.
Phil Coke pitched the eighth and Darin Downs yielded an RBI single to Maicer Izturis in the ninth.
The Blue Jays lost for the eighth time in 11 games since matching a franchise record with an 11-game winning streak.
”That feels like a long time ago,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said.
Cabrera was held out of the lineup with a sore back. It was the first day off this season for Cabrera, the reigning AL Triple Crown winner who leads the major leagues with a .364 batting average. He also has 26 homers and a major league-leading 85 RBIs.
”He’s the best hitter on the planet,” Hunter said. ”You want him in the lineup.”
Cabrera has been bothered by back soreness for the past two days, leaving in the ninth inning each game. Thursday marked Detroit’s seventh straight game on artificial turf.
Also out for Detroit was second baseman Omar Infante. He was knocked out in the fourth inning Wednesday with a bruised left shin after a hard slide at second base by Toronto’s Colby Rasmus.
”He’s better than he was yesterday but he’s sore,” said Leyland, adding that Infante is day-to-day.
Ramon Santiago started at second and Don Kelly was at third.
The Tigers jumped all over Esmil Rogers in the first inning. Jackson singled on the first pitch of the game and scored two pitches later on a double by Andy Dirks. One out later, Fielder drove in Dirks with an RBI single.
Detroit got two more in the third on RBI doubles by Hunter and Jhonny Peralta, and then chased Rogers (3-4) in a three-run sixth.
Neil Wagner came on after Rogers gave up three straight hits to start the inning, including an RBI single by Jackson. Hunter hit a sacrifice fly and Fielder drove in a run with an infield single.
Rogers allowed season worsts of seven runs and 11 hits. He walked two and struck out four.
Toronto starters have allowed at least six runs in each of the past three games.
Jackson connected against Wagner in the eighth, hitting a drive to center for his fifth homer.
NOTES: Encarnacion returned to the lineup after missing three games with a sore left hamstring. … Toronto SS Jose Reyes left after eight innings. … Verlander had a career-worst five straight winless starts in 2008. … Blue Jays 3B Brett Lawrie (left ankle) played his first rehab game with Class-A Lansing. He went 0 for 3 before leaving after six innings. … The Tigers optioned OF Avisail Garcia to Triple-A Toledo and will activate OF Matt Tuiasosopo (left ribcage strain) off the DL Friday.
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