Pillar helps Blue Jays hold off Tigers
TORONTO - The fortunes of the Toronto Blue Jays have been tied to center fielder Kevin Pillar in the past two games.
Pillar hit into a rally-stopping triple play Friday night in a 5-4 loss to the Detroit Tigers.
It was a different story in Toronto’s 5-4 victory over the Tigers Saturday.
Pillar had four hits, including the go-ahead homer in the sixth inning and an RBI single in the first, and also made a sensational catch against the wall in the fifth.
He made it easy to forget his bad luck from Friday.
“I think in that moment it was maybe an all-time low,” Pillar said of Friday’s triple play. “A guy that can run a little bit, I never envisioned myself hitting into a triple play. I hit the ball hard, I hit it right at a guy, stuff happens. You go home and have four at-bats and make seven outs, that’s a pretty rough day.”
With left-hander Brett Anderson pitching six effective outings to earn the win, the Blue Jays (65-77) ended a three-game losing streak.
Miguel Cabrera homered for the Tigers (60-81).
Detroit starter Chad Bell allowed five hits, three walks and two runs in 4 2/3 innings and did not factor in the decision. The left-hander struck out five and hit a batter.
“He did his job,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. “He had trouble throwing strikes at times, but he was able to wriggle out of it. Overall, he did a decent job.
“We gave up runs here and there that ended up costing us. No one had a real bad day. We couldn’t tack on enough to make up for the pieces that they grabbed.”
Anderson (1-1 with Toronto, 3-3 overall) allowed two runs and five hits in six innings in his third start with the Blue Jays. He struck out five and walked none.
“He moved the ball in and out,” Tigers DH John Hicks said. “His curveball was pretty good, he threw that a lot. Whenever he got in trouble he used it pretty effectively.”
Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna was unavailable because of a stiff neck so Ryan Tepera entered the game in the ninth and recorded his second save of the season despite allowing an RBI double to Nick Castellanos and an RBI single to James McCann.
“Everybody thinks it’s easy to close,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “Nothing’s easy but he got the job done.”
“It was known that Osuna was down today so I was prepared three or four innings before,” Tepera said. “To me it’s the same. I made things interesting.”
Cabrera marked his return from a six-game suspension for his part in a brawl with the New York Yankees by hitting his 15th homer in the first inning to give the Tigers a 2-0 lead.
“Getting six games off would allow the body to refresh itself,” Ausmus said. “In typical Miggy fashion, first at-bat he hits a home run.”
The Blue Jays scored once in the first.
Richard Urena led off with a walk and was forced at second on a grounder to third by Jose Bautista. Kendrys Morales singled with two outs and Pillar followed with an RBI single.
The Blue Jays tied the game at 2 in the fourth. Morales walked, and Pillar singled and was forced at second in a grounder to second by Teoscar Hernandez. Morales scored from third when Hernandez was caught stealing with Ryan Goins batting.
“I don’t think anybody expected Morales to go there,” Ausmus said. “Credit the Blue Jays for a surprise attack there.”
Bell left with two outs in the fifth with Ryan Goins and Bautista at first and second. Warwick Saupold (3-2) replaced Bell and walked Justin Smoak to load the bases, but Morales grounded out to second.
Bautista made a fine catch coming in shallow right field to deprive Nick Castellanos of an RBI single with a runner at third base to end the sixth.
“It was phenomenal,” Anderson said. “Gold Glove caliber plays all over. Jose at the end was good. Kevin is pretty special out there.”
Pillar led off the bottom of the sixth with his 15th home run. After Darwin Barney hit a one-out single, Daniel Stumpf replaced Saupold and allowed a two-out RBI single to Luke Maile to give Toronto a 4-2 lead.
“Kev has been on a nice little roll, he has been swinging the bat well,” Gibbons said. “Then, of course, the big play in center field, like he always does. It’s kind of like an old hat to him.”
Carlos Ramirez replaced Anderson and pitched a perfect seventh and Dominic Leone followed with a perfect eighth for Toronto.
The Blue Jays added a run in the eighth against Blaine Hardy on a double by Maile and a single by Bautista.
NOTES: Toronto 3B Josh Donaldson (illness) missed his second straight game Saturday and LF Steve Pearce (stiff lower back), who left the game Friday after the first inning, also was not in the Blue Jays lineup Saturday. ... Detroit 3B Nick Castellanos started for the second straight game in right field, his first outfield appearances since 2013 when he played nine games in left field. ... Detroit OF Mikie Mahtook (sore left groin) was a late scratch Saturday and INF Andrew Romine took his place in left field.