Tigers-Blue Jays Preview

The Associated Press

Toronto's R.A. Dickey is hoping for another strong showing after delivering a vintage performance last week.

While containing the Detroit Tigers may normally prove difficult, manager Jim Leyland's club is struggling at the plate.

Dickey and the Blue Jays open a four-game set against the visiting Tigers, who try to avoid a sixth loss in seven games Monday.

Dickey (7-8, 4.72 ERA) has been plagued by inconsistency this year, but he was at his best Wednesday in a 3-0 road win over Tampa Bay. The reigning NL Cy Young Award winner allowed two hits and a walk while striking out six in his first complete game.

"That's as good of a game as you can pitch, unless it's perfect," manager John Gibbons told MLB's official website. "He's pitched some good ballgames for us, he's had some tough ones, but for the most part, he gives us a chance to win every night he goes out there."

Dickey improved to 5-3 over his last nine starts, with each of those victories coming while allowing two earned runs or fewer. He's yielded at least six in the other four.

"I told you it would take some time to unlearn some bad habits that I had picked up trying to compensate for some earlier maladies," said Dickey, who battled through neck and back pain earlier this season. "It's starting to take shape a little bit. Hopefully, this will be a springboard for the next hundred innings."

Dickey has posted a 1.80 ERA in winning back-to-back starts against the Tigers (43-37), though he hasn't faced them since 2011 while with the New York Mets. While Omar Infante is 12 for 25 with two homers and a double against him since 2010, Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera have combined for three singles in 14 at-bats.

Detroit wasted another homer from Cabrera on Sunday, dropping to 1-5 over its last six games with a 3-1 loss at Tampa Bay. The Tigers, who lead the AL Central over Cleveland by percentage points, have averaged 3.0 runs while going 5 for 42 with runners in scoring position over their last five contests.

"I'm not really overly concerned about it, but we do have to put some runs on the board," said Leyland, whose club leads the majors with a .280 average. "We just haven't been producing any runs. We're just not swinging the bats good in big situations.

"To say we're struggling, that's obvious. To say, what's the solution? That's not so obvious."

Cabrera, who's gone deep five times in the last six days, is batting .458 with seven homers and 13 RBIs during a 15-game hitting streak.

Toronto (40-41) has dropped five of seven while hitting .220 following a team-record tying 11-game winning streak. Jose Bautista went 3 for 5 and hit a game-tying homer - his third in two days - in the ninth before Josh Thole's error allowed the winning run to score in the bottom of the inning Sunday in a 5-4 loss at Boston.

"It was frustrating," Gibbons said. "That might be the most frustrating loss of the year right there, to be honest with you, because of who we were playing and where we're at."

Toronto will try to bounce back against rookie Jose Alvarez (1-1, 3.78). The left-hander allowed a combined three runs over 11 innings in his first two starts before yielding four in 5 2-3 innings Wednesday in a 7-4 defeat to the Los Angeles Angels.

He'll need to be wary of Bautista, who's hitting .375 - his highest average against any team - with five homers, 14 RBIs and 16 runs in 26 career games versus Detroit.

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