After struggling in recent visits to Detroit, the red-hot Toronto Blue Jays are on the verge of their first sweep there in 11 years.
However, standing in the way is Justin Verlander, who looks to improve to 4-0 in his last six starts against the Blue Jays on Thursday.Toronto (36-24) had dropped six of seven at Comerica Park heading into their only trip there this season. After scoring all their runs in the ninth inning in a 5-3 victory Tuesday, the Blue Jays got a combined seven RBIs from Jose Bautista, Melky Cabrera and Adam Lind in an 8-2 win Wednesday.Cabrera finished a triple shy of the cycle and had three of Toronto's 13 hits. The Blue Jays, winners in 18 of 22 and 10 of 11 on the road, are batting .301 over a 13-2 stretch with 25 homers and 89 runs."We're picking each other up," said Bautista, who is batting .457 with 11 RBIs during a 10-game hitting streak. "The day that one guy doesn't come through, then somebody else does. It's what winning teams do, and we're enjoying it. Winning baseball is much more fun."Verlander (6-4, 3.99 ERA) has a 1.32 ERA in his last five starts against the Blue Jays and pitched seven scoreless innings in his only matchup last season, an 11-1 win in Toronto on July 4.The right-hander appeared to get closer to regaining that dominant form in Friday's 6-3 win in Seattle. He gave up three runs and five hits while striking out seven over 7 2/3 innings. He was 1-2 with an 8.31 ERA and seven strikeouts in his prior three starts."I think my rhythm was much better, my consistency was much better and my stuff was a lot better," Verlander said. "That's a good sign in and of itself."Detroit (31-24) is trying to avoid its first five-game losing streak since April 22-27, 2012, and its first home sweep to Toronto since Sept. 16-18, 2003.The Tigers are 2-8 in Detroit since May 8, and have lost 12 of 16 overall. Their pitchers have a 6.01 ERA in the past 16 games.In their last four, the Tigers are batting .157 and have scored seven runs with all but one coming via homers. Miguel Cabrera and Ian Kinsler each homered Wednesday, and Cabrera's was his fourth in eight games.Detroit went 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position while leaving 11 on base Wednesday. The Tigers are 2 for 19 (.105) with runners in scoring position in the past four games."I still think this team is way better than we're playing in the last few weeks," manager Brad Ausmus said.Ausmus' club faces J.A. Happ (4-2, 4.10), who was charged with a season-high six runs and nine hits in 7 2/3 innings Friday in a 6-1 defeat to Kansas City.The left-hander has given up at least four runs in three of his six starts this season. He's yielded a total of one run in his other three.Happ's only career start against Detroit came Aug. 23, 2012, when he allowed one run in 7 1/3 innings in a 3-2, 11-inning loss for Toronto.
Hitters have a .220 hard-hit average against Justin Verlander's fastball when he throws it 93 MPH or faster, which is seventh-worst in the American League among qualified starters. Edwin Encarnacion has a .254 hard-hit average against fastballs thrown at least 93 MPH this season, which is 73 points above the league average among qualified hitters.