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TOR@DET: Happ strikes out seven in seven-plus frames

DETROIT -- When J.A. Happ was traded to the Blue Jays on July 26, he went from the worst team in baseball to one that still had aspirations of the postseason.

It was the type of move that can reinvigorate a player as he heads into the stretch drive with plenty of meaningful games left to play. Unfortunately for Happ and the rest of his new teammates, the Blue Jays went into a tailspin almost immediately after the big 10-player deal.

The Blue Jays' struggles continued again on Thursday afternoon despite Happ recording his best start of the year, as Chad Jenkins surrendered a walk-off single in the bottom of the 11th inning en route to a 3-2 loss to the Tigers at Comerica Park.

"It's tough, we got ahead today and unfortunately just some balls found a hole," said Happ, who struck out seven and allowed just one run in 7 1/3 innings. "That's going to happen. I think this team, from what I've seen so far, is pretty good about coming to play the next day, and that's what good teams do."

Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos acquired Happ, along with right-handers Brandon Lyon and David Carpenter, with an eye towards the future and with the hope they would have an immediate impact as well.

Despite the fresh arms coming in and delivering as anticipated, the overall results haven't been there. The Blue Jays have gone 5-19 (.263) since July 29 and only the Indians (.210) and Happ's former Astros (.227) squad have worse winning percentages over that same span.

Most of the blame falls upon the offense, which has scored three runs or fewer in 19 of those 24 contests for a Major League-worst 2.75 runs per game.

A lack of run support was the case again on Thursday as the Blue Jays managed to score a total of two runs in 11 innings -- thanks to the performance of right-hander Justin Verlander and a trio of Tigers relievers.

"Everyone here knows the battles we've had, the struggles we've had currently on the offensive side, but that doesn't take away from the way we prepare," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said after his team was swept in three games.

"We know we're in a battle and you go up against a guy like Verlander, [Max] Scherzer and [Anibal] Sanchez in this series, it's not going to get any easier, but we've got to continue to play the game as it emerges in front of us and execute when called upon."

Toronto actually jumped out to a rare early lead against Detroit as Edwin Encarnacion sent a hanging 1-2 curveball from Verlander into the seats in left field for his 33rd home run of the season. For a while that appeared as though it would be enough.

Happ didn't allow a single base runner to reach scoring position prior to departing with one out in the eighth inning and a man on first. It marked the first time a Blue Jays starter walked out to start an eighth inning since injured right-hander Brandon Morrow tossed a shutout against the White Sox on June 6.

It was another impressive outing by Happ, who has surrendered a total of six hits and two runs over his past 13 1/3 innings.

"I think any time a guy comes from the National League, you wonder how the deeper lineups are going to be affected," Farrell said. "But the one thing he has repeatedly shown, and really has improved with the four starts he has made for us, is the effectiveness to the fastball and the swing and miss capability.

"That showed again today. There have been gradual improvements each time out as he has regained arm strength and stamina inside of a given outing. He was outstanding once again today."

The wheels began to fall off for Toronto, though, after Happ's departure. Lyon surrendered a single before lefty Darren Oliver allowed the Tigers' first run to score on an RBI single by Brennan Boesch.

During the next at-bat, Oliver was charged with a wild pitch on a ball that catcher Jeff Mathis likely should have blocked as another run crossed the plate to tie the game at 2.

Three innings later, Jenkins surrendered the decisive blow as catcher Alex Avila sent a 1-0 offering into right field to score Quintin Barry from second for the game-winning run.

"I had never seen him before, and once we'd gotten the scouting report, [I knew] he's got a good sinkerball and he's got a good slider," Avila said of Jenkins. "Basically, my plan was just to get him up, see a pitch up.

"After he fell behind, I knew he was going to come back again with it. That was basically it, just making sure I see it up and put a line drive somewhere."

The Blue Jays departed Detroit having lost five consecutive games, but there is some positive news on the horizon. Jose Bautista is expected to re-join the team in Baltimore on Friday after missing more than a month with a sprained left wrist.

Shortstop Yunel Escobar also could return in time for the series opener, while top starter Brandon Morrow will pitch for the first time in two months on Saturday afternoon.

Reinforcements are on the way, but the Blue Jays still insist despite the recent swoon in the standings there is still plenty of hope in the clubhouse.

"I don't think it's been tough to keep positive," outfielder Anthony Gose said. "We haven't had a few key hits when we needed them and it's cost us a couple ball games, but we're playing good ball. There's nothing for us to really hang our heads about."

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