Memories of his last outing in Toronto might provide some fuel for Justin Verlander to end his current drought.
Pitching at Rogers Centre for the first time since throwing his most recent no-hitter there, Verlander tries to avoid matching a career high with his fifth straight winless start Thursday night in the Detroit Tigers' finale of a contentious four-game set with the Blue Jays.
Detroit's lineup will be missing superstar Miguel Cabrera, who is being held out with a sore back. The AL's reigning Triple Crown winner had been bothered by back soreness for the past two days, leaving in the ninth inning of each game.
As for Verlander (8-5, 3.77 ERA), he had a 4.85 ERA but received an average 11.08 runs of support to win four straight starts May 22-June 7. In four outings since, his teammates have scored nine runs with the right-hander on the mound while he's gone 0-1 with a 3.96 ERA.
He went winless in five starts Aug. 27-Sept. 20, 2008, for Detroit (45-38).
Verlander gave up three runs and nine hits in eight innings of a 4-3, 10-inning loss at Tampa Bay on Saturday. Though he could not hold an early 3-0 lead, manager Jim Leyland was pleased with the performance.
"I thought that was the best that he's thrown in a long time," Leyland told the Tigers' official website.
He threw exceptionally well at Toronto on May 7, 2011, when he struck out four and walked one while facing the minimum in a 9-0 victory. It came less than four years after Verlander no-hit Milwaukee on June 12, 2007.
Verlander is 2-0 with a 1.59 ERA in four starts versus Toronto after he went 0-2 with an 11.40 ERA in his first three.
He'll again have a tough act to follow after Max Scherzer pitched into the seventh to become the first pitcher in 27 years to go 13-0 after Detroit's 6-2 win Wednesday. Victor Martinez and Alex Avila each homered as the Tigers won their second straight since losing six of seven.
Toronto (41-43) has allowed an average of 4.6 runs while going 3-7 since it gave up 2.5 during an 11-game winning streak. The Blue Jays had nine hits but stranded eight runners and committed three errors Wednesday.
They last dropped a home set May 3-5 to Seattle.
It remains to be seen if anything stems from Wednesday's bench-clearing incident that followed Detroit's Torii Hunter taking exception to being hit by Todd Redmond in the sixth inning. No punches were thrown.
That was preceded by Colby Rasmus' hard slide into Detroit's Omar Infante at second base in the fourth. Infante, 11 for 23 in seven games, will miss the finale with a shin contusion.
"Trust me, it's nothing against Redmond,'' Hunter said. "It was all Rasmus sliding late with his spikes up.''
Rasmus felt there was nothing wrong with the slide.
"I go in hard every time,'' he said. "My intention is never to hurt anybody or nothing like that."
The Blue Jays hope to get back on track behind Esmil Rogers (3-3, 3.12), who is 2-1 with a 2.18 ERA in six starts. He allowed six hits and struck out six over six scoreless innings but did not factor in the decision of a 6-2 win at Boston on Saturday.
"That's what he's capable of," manager John Gibbons told the Blue Jays' official website. "He's got the great arm, and he's got the good breaking pitches, too.
The right-hander will make his first start versus Detroit, but is 1-0 with a 1.86 ERA in six relief appearances.
Toronto slugger Jose Bautista is 11 for 21 in six games since he hit .135 in his previous 14. He's 3 for 10 with two doubles and a homer versus Verlander.
Teammate Edwin Encarnacion could miss a fourth straight contest with a hamstring injury.
Martinez is batting .372 with two homers and 10 RBIs during a 10-game hitting streak at Toronto.
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