Live Tigers blog: Jays avoid sweep

Bruce Mason
The Detroit News

Six extra-base hits spelled a poor outing for Tigers right-handed starter Jordan Zimmermann in a 7-2 defeat as Toronto avoided a three-game sweep Wednesday at Comerica Park.

The Jays' Justin Smoak hit a two-run blast in the first, Josh Donaldson (3-for-4) belted a three-run homer in the third, and Zimmermann (8-3) exited with a season-high seven earned runs allowed in 4 2/3 innings.

The Tigers batted 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and ended a five-game winning streak.

Nick Castellanos hit a two-run homer in the first inning off Jays starter R.A. Dickey (4-6).

Top 9: Blaine extends streak

Tigers left-handed reliever Blaine Hardy extended his streak to five straight appearances without issuing an earned run.

Hardy threw seven pitches (all strikes) to retire the side. He ended the inning by striking out Jose Bautista.

The Jays lead 7-2 entering the bottom of the ninth.

Bot 8: Upton, McCann leave men on base

Jays right-handed reliever Drew Storen (6.86 ERA) entered the game and faced one-out trouble when he issued a walk to Nick Castellanos, then plunked J.D. Martinez.

But Storen walked off the mound with a scoreless frame.

Justin Upton (.226 average) flied out to end a seven-pitch at-bat, and James McCann (.184) grounded out. Both are 0-for-4 today. Upton has left four on base, McCann three.

Top 8: Pillar gunned down by McCann

Tiger reliever Mark Lowe gave up a run in his past three outings, but he threw a scoreless eighth today.

The Jays lead 7-2 entering the bottom of the eighth.

The highlight of the top of the eighth: Jays centerfielder Kevin Pillar drew a leadoff walk and was gunned down when trying to steal by Tigers catcher James McCann. In a mildly funny moment, Pillar got up and tried to call time, thinking he was safe.

Bot 7: Leadoff walk cannot produce run

Jose Iglesias drew a leadoff walk against Jays right-handed reliever Jesse Chavez, but he escaped the inning without giving up a run.

The Jays lead 7-2 after seven innings.

Chavez struck out Ian Kinsler (91 mph cutter) and Mike Aviles grounded into an inning-ending double play.

Top 7: Sanchez induces three groundouts

Tigers starter-turned-reliever Anibal Sanchez gave up a leadoff double to Toronto's Jose Bautista, but ended the inning without yielding a run.

It’s 7-2 Jays entering the bottom of the sixth.

Josh Donaldson (3-for-4, three-run homer, triple, single) grounded out to advance Bautista to third, but Toronto could not push him across the plate.

Sanchez induced back-to-back groundouts from Edwin Encarnacion and Justin Smoak.

Bot 6: Martinez stranded at third

Jays right-handed reliever Jesse Chavez (3.20 ERA) stranded a runner at third with back-to-back strikeouts to maintain Toronto’s 7-2 lead through six innings.

One night after going 0-for-4, J.D. Martinez started the sixth inning with a single and is 2-for-3 today. He advanced to second on a wild pitch and went to third on Justin Upton’s groundout.

That’s when the day ended for Jays starter R.A. Dickey, who gave up two earned runs in 5 1/3 innings. He struck out one, walked one and gave up nine hits.

Chavez struck out James McCann (on a pitch that appeared to be off the plate) and Andrew Romine, who threw his helmet in disgust.

Justin Smoak arrives at home after his two-run homer in the first inning.

Top 6: Sanchez gets 1-2-3 inning

Tigers starter-turned-reliever Anibal Sanchez earned a 1-2-3 inning in the sixth. He struck out catcher Josh Thole (92-mph four-seamer).

It's 7-2 Jays in the sixth.

The Tigers will start the bottom of the inning with J.D. Martinez, Justin Upton and James McCann against Jays starter R.A. Dickey, who’s thrown 90 pitches.

Bot 5: Two-out singles cannot produce run

Mike Aviles and Miguel Cabrera hit back-to-back, two-out singles to place runners on the corners, but Jays starter R.A. Dickey escaped by inducing a ground ball from Nick Castellanos.

It's 7-2 Jays through five innings as they try and avoid a three-game sweep.

Dickey retired eight of nine batters until Aviles singled.

Castellanos had a 3-0 count for the Tigers, who are batting .363 with runners in scoring position this month, second best in the American League (Seattle, .388). But Dickey’s 84-mph four-seam fastball was called strike two to the dislike of Castellanos, who then grounded out on the next pitch.

Top 5: Zimmermann pulled

Two doubles. Two triples. Two homers. And the day for Jordan Zimmermann is over.

The Jays' Kevin Pillar belted a two-RBI triple to increase the Toronto lead to 7-2 and end the day for Zimmermann, who gave up six extra base hits in his worst performance as a Tiger.

Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson also tripled in the inning and sits in prime position for a cycle. The 2015 AL MVP is 3-for-3 today with a three-run homer and single.

Zimmermann gave up eight hits, two walks and seven earned runs in 4 2/3 innings.

In the fifth, Edwin Encarnacion walked to give the Jays runners at the corners with one out and Justin Smoak came within a matter of feet from belting his second homer of the game. He hit a 91-mph four-seamer down the right-field line, and barely missed the foul pole. Zimmermann struck him out for the second out of the inning, but then Pillar tripled.

Tigers' starter-turned-reliever Anibal Sanchez is now pitching .

Bottom 4: Four-pitch inning for Detroit bats

Justin Upton and Andrew Romine belted deep fly balls — but both died at the warning track.

Jays starter R.A. Dickey needed four pitches to end the fourth inning and maintain a 5-2 lead.

Romine belted the first pitch he saw, but it was caught by the outstretched glove of Jays right fielder Jose Bautista at the wall.

Upton, who entered today hitting safely in five straight games, flied out to left field.

Dickey has given up six hits and a walk through four innings. He allowed a two-run homer to Nick Castellanos in the first.

Top 4: Zimmermann gets 1-2-3 inning

The Jays were seeing the ball well through three innings, pounding two homers, but Tigers right-hander Jordan Zimmermann returned to his scoreless form in the fourth with a 1-2-3 inning.

Zimmermann, however, has thrown 74 pitches through four innings. He’s given up six hits and a home run to both Justin Smoak (two-run shot) and Josh Donaldson (three-run blast).

The Jays lead 5-2.

Bot 3: Martinez grounds into double play

J.D. Martinez grounded into an inning-ending double play to eliminate any hopes of the Tigers scoring in the third.

The Jays lead 5-2 at Comerica Park as they try to avoid a three-game sweep.

Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson made a highlight-reel play to stab a ground ball off the bat of Miguel Cabrera to start the third inning.

The Tigers offense has been sizzling during its last 15 games (12-3 record) at Comerica Park, averaging 6.3 runs per game. They are batting .322 with 22 homers.

Nick Castellanos entered today on a mini-slump, without a hit in six straight at-bats, but he’s 2-for-2 today.

Top 3: Donaldson belts 3-run HR

Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson hammered a three-run homer to left field to give Toronto a 5-2 lead in the top of the third.

It's the second homer relinquished by Tigers right-hander Jordan Zimmermann, who saw his four-seam fastball leave the yard. According to News reporter Chris McCosky, Zimmermann entered today yielding a .328 average on his four-seam fastball.

Jays catcher Josh Thole (.128 average) drew a leadoff walk and Jose Bautista doubled to right field to place runners on second and third with no outs. Then Donaldson, the 2015 AL MVP, hit his 14th homer of the year.

From there, the Jays threatened even more when Justin Smoak (double) and Kevin Pillar (single) pounded Zimmermann pitches. But the Tigers escaped with an inning-ending double play.

The Jays’ Ezequiel Carrera hit a ground ball to first baseman Andrew Romine, who threw to shortstop Jose Iglesias, who went home to catcher James McCann, who applied the tag and nailed Smoak at the plate to end the inning.

Tigers starter-turned-reliever Anibal Sanchez (6.55 ERA) is warming up in the bullpen.

Zimmermann gave up six homers in 10 games entering today.

Bottom 2: Base-running blunder kills threat

Jose Iglesias committed a gigantic boo-boo when he was picked off first base with one out and Ian Kinsler batting — and it likely cost the Tigers a run.

It's 2-2 between the Jays and Tigers after two innings.

Kinsler, a career .421 hitter (8-for-19) against Jays starter R.A. Dickey, managed to draw a walk after Iglesias was picked off. So instead of having the bases loaded with one out, Mike Aviles batted with two outs in the inning, and flied out to center field.

In his previous start, the 41-year-old Dickey did not allow a hit through five innings at Boston. But today he’s already relinquished five hits through two innings.

Tigers first baseman Andrew Romine singled with one out and Iglesias, who started the ninth-inning rally Tuesday night with a leadoff single, delivered a base hit to advance Romine to third base.

Top 2: Zimmermann gets 1-2-3 inning

Tigers right-hander Jordan Zimmermann earned a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the second.

It’s 2-2 after both teams traded two-run homers in the first inning (Jays’ Justin Smoak; Tigers’ Nick Castellanos).

In the second, Zimmermann struck out Jays left fielder Ezequiel Carrera, a former Tiger (2014: .261 batting average in 45 games). Jays second baseman Darwin Barney and shortstop Ryan Goins both flied out.

Bot 1: Castellanos returns favor with 2-run HR

The two-run homer is the name of the game thus far: Nick Castellanos returns the favor and belts a two-run homer in the bottom of the first against Blue Jays knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.

It's 2-2 after one inning at Comerica Park.

It's Castellanos' 11th homer of the season. He drove home Mike Aviles, who hit a one-out single.

Entering today, Dickey held right-handed hitters to a .154 average across his past seven starts (14-for-91). But the Tigers belted three hits in the first inning, all by right-handed bats.

Top 1: Smoak belts two-run homer

Blue Jays first baseman Justin Smoak continues his domination at Comerica Park. He belted a two-run homer on a full count to give Toronto a 2-0 lead in the opening inning.

In 17 career games at Comerica Park, Smoak has eight homers.

Smoak drilled Jordan Zimmermann’s 87-mph slider into the right-field seats to the delight of Blue Jays fans, who were loud Tuesday night for each Tiger who swung and missed against Toronto starter Aaron Sanchez (career-high 12 strikeouts).

Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson (2015 AL MVP) singled with one out and advanced to second on a groundout by designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion.

Zimmermann entered today 4-0 in day games with a 1.05 ERA.

Zimmermann battles in 1st

Tigers right-handed starter Jordan Zimmermann is 5-1 at Comerica Park with a 3.38 ERA.

In the top of the first, he will face right fielder Jose Bautista, third baseman Josh Donaldson and designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion.

Opponents are hitting .173 against Tigers starters in the past seven games, a league-best stat.

The up-and-down Tigers (30-28) are suddenly in second place and within 2.5 games of first-place Cleveland in a jam-packed AL Central.

How to watch

The Tigers go for the three-game sweep of the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday at 1:10 p.m. at Comerica Park.

Jordan Zimmermann takes aim at his ninth win while former Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey starts for the Blue Jays.

The Tigers pocketed their fifth straight win on Tuesday night with a big ninth- / 10th-inning rally against the Blue Jays. Ian Kinsler ended it on a walk-off RBI-single in the 10th. Here is Chris McCosky’s report on  a thrilling night at Comerica Park.

He was a phenom, a flame-throwing freak, and in a blaze of fastballs, he became a folk hero. Read Bob Wojnowski’s report on Joel Zumaya.

An anomaly or not? Right-handers are batting .270 against Zimmerman this season. That’s a 26-point increase over his career average.

TIGERS LINEUP

1. Ian Kinsler, 2B

2. Mike Aviles, LF

3. Miguel Cabrera, DH

4. Nick Castellanos, 3B

5. J.D. Martinez, RF

6. Justin Upton, CF

7. James McCann, C

8. Andrew Romine, 1B

9. Jose Iglesias, SS

Jordan Zimmermann, P

BLUE JAYS LINEUP

1. Jose Bautista, RF

2. Josh Donaldson, 3B

3. Edwin Encarnacion, DH

4. Justin Smoak, 1B

5. Kevin Pillar, CF

6. Ezequiel Carrera, LF

7. Darwin Barney, 2B

8. Ryan Goins, SS

9. Josh Thole, C

R.A. Dickey, P

TIGERS VS. BLUE JAYS

When: Wednesday, 1:10 p.m.

Where: Comerica Park, Detroit

Pitching matchup: RHP Jordan Zimmermann (8-2, 2.58) vs. RHP R.A. Dickey (3-6, 4.21)

Local TV: Fox Sports Detroit

National TV: None

Internet streaming: MLB.TV (blacked out in Detroit market)

Local radio: 97.1 FM

Satellite radio: SIRI 212