Blue Jays-Tigers Preview


The last time Justin Verlander faced the Toronto Blue Jays, he threw his second career no-hitter.

Facing Toronto for the first time this season, Verlander looks to help the Tigers complete a three-game sweep by handing the struggling Blue Jays a fifth straight defeat Thursday at Comerica Park.

Though Verlander (12-7, 2.53 ERA) is 2-2 with a 5.18 ERA in six starts versus Toronto, the reigning AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner struck out four and walked one when he no-hit the Blue Jays during a 9-0 win at Rogers Centre on May 7, 2011. With that effort, Verlander improved to 2-0 with a 1.44 ERA in his last three starts against Toronto.

He hopes to continue that success against the Blue Jays (56-67), provided he's more efficient than his last outing. Verlander allowed three runs and four walks in six innings while not factoring in the decision of a 5-3 home win over Baltimore on Friday.

"I was definitely out of sync,'' he said. "I wasn't quite right. I was able to keep us in the game."

Verlander hopes to do more as the Tigers (66-57) bid for their first three-game sweep of Toronto since Aug. 19-21, 2005. Anibal Sanchez threw 6 2-3 strong innings, Price Fielder had an RBI and Jose Valverde recorded his 100th save with Detroit as it won for the fifth time in seven games, 3-2 on Wednesday.

The Tigers are two games behind the AL Central-leading Chicago White Sox and one out of the second wild-card spot.

Fielder is 8 for 18 with five RBIs in his last six games since going 0 for 12 in his previous four contests. He's 6 for 16 (.375) with three doubles against scheduled Blue Jays starter J.A. Happ (2-1, 5.09).

After making four straight relief appearances since being acquired from Houston on July 20, Happ looks for a third straight win as he makes his fourth consecutive start. The left-hander allowed one run, two hits and struck out eight in six innings of a 3-2 win over Texas on Friday.

"I just wanted to throw everything with conviction, along with the cutter,'' said Happ, 2-1 with a 5.06 ERA as a starter for the Blue Jays. "Sometimes I don't quite throw that with enough conviction."

His only appearance against the Tigers came out of the bullpen July 28, when he pitched two scoreless innings in Toronto's 5-1 home victory.

Losers in seven of eight overall, the Blue Jays have scored three or fewer runs in six straight contests. Things could get even tougher for Toronto if first baseman David Cooper is unable to play after he left in the sixth inning Wednesday with a jammed neck. Cooper is hitting .371 (13 for 35) in his last nine games.

Toronto is already without injured regulars Jose Bautista, Brett Lawrie, Adam Lind and J.P. Arencibia. Bautista, who has not played since July 16 because of a left wrist injury, could return as early as Friday.

Blue Jays center fielder Colby Rasmus is 0 for 26 with nine strikeouts in his last six games.