TORONTO—The only thing consistent about the Toronto Blue Jays is that they keep winning.
Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki had a pair of RBI singles, including a tie-breaking hit in the bottom of the eighth inning, as the Blue Jays rallied past the Detroit Tigers 5-4 last night.
Toronto has won six straight but not without some struggles, like stranding 14 runners on base against Detroit.
“That’s how winning streaks start, that’s how they continue,” said Tulowitzki after the game.
“It’s a different guy every night, you get good pitching, you play good defence, mix it in with some timely hitting,” he added.
“I think that’s the recipe you’ll hear teams talk about when they’re on a winning streak.”
All-star third baseman Josh Donaldson had two hits and two runs for the Blue Jays (49-39). Canadian Michael Saunders, who hopes to be voted into the all-star game by fans in an online ballot, was 2 for 4 with three runs and a run batted in.
Drew Hutchison (1-0) pitched six innings, striking out seven but giving up three runs on six hits in his first Major League Baseball start since April 24 when he struck out five over 5 2/3 innings in Toronto’s 6-3 win over the Oakland Athletics.
Brett Cecil, Jason Grilli and Roberto Osuna each pitched an inning of relief, with Cecil giving up a run.
Hutchison was pitching yesterday in place of Marco Estrada, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a sore back on Wednesday.
Justin Upton and Nick Castellanos each hit a home run for Detroit (45-41). Former Cy Young winner Justin Verlander (8-6) went 5 2/3 innings with five strikeouts but allowed six hits and two runs.
Shane Greene, Justin Wilson, Alex Wilson all came out of the Tigers bullpen. Justin Wilson took the loss, while Alex Wilson was charged with the blown save.
“It was a battle,” said Verlander of the potent Blue Jays lineup. “Those guys, one through nine, really fought me. I was able to get out if some jams there but obviously, ideally I’d like to go deeper in the game.”
Tulowitzki hit an RBI single in the eighth inning, scoring Donaldson and Saunders and moving Russell Martin to third base. That gave Toronto a 5-4 lead and brought the 46,283 at Rogers Centre to their feet after the Blue Jays had trailed for five innings.
“I understood I didn’t need to take a big swing and hit a home run, that a base hit there was just as effective,” said Tulowitzki. “Get the lead and then have Osuna come in, he’s been great for us.”
Osuna followed through for Tulowitzki, closing out the game, inducing a groundout, a pop fly and striking out the final batter of the night for his 18th save of the season.
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons wasn’t concerned that his team left 14 runners on base.
“When teams don’t hit a lot with runners in scoring position, it’s not always the hitters that are struggling,” said Gibbons.
“We’ve done the same thing to other teams when we pitch pretty good. That’s just the nature of the beast.”
Saunders put the Blue Jays on the scoreboard in the first inning, bouncing a single to centre field and bringing home Donaldson from second base. It was Saunders’ seventh RBI in seven games.
Martin followed that up with a double to left field, driving in Saunders as Toronto ended the first with a 2-0 lead.
Upton got a run back for the Tigers in the second, taking Hutchison’s four-seam fastball over the centre-field wall.
Castellanos tied it 2-2 for Detroit in the fourth inning with a solo shot to deep left. James McCann made it a 3-2 lead three at bats later, plating Upton from second with a single to right field.
Toronto almost tied it up in the sixth, with Kevin Pillar and Darwin Barney standing on third and second, respectively, Ezequiel Carrera laid a bunt down on the first-base side. Verlander hustled to field the ball, throwing to McCann, who tagged the sliding Pillar.
Ian Kinsler added to Detroit’s lead in the seventh, grounding into a double play but scoring McCann from third.
Tulowitzki cut into the Tigers’ lead in the bottom of the seventh, stroking a single to left field that cashed in Saunders, who had led off the inning with a ground rule double.
Elsewhere in the American League, the Angels beat the Rays 5-1; the Yankees defeated the Indians 5-4; the Twins thrashed the Rangers 10-1; the Royals beat the Mariners 4-3; and the Athletics grounded the Astros 3-1.
In National League action, the Cardinals sunk the Pirates 5-1; the Mets beat the Nationals 9-7; the Braves defeated the Cubs 4-3; the Rockies towered over the Phillies 11-2; and the Padres dominated the Dodgers 6-0.