Jays' late rally falls short vs. Tigers
Right-hander Burnett touched for six runs in two-plus innings
DETROIT -- In one corner of the clubhouse, A.J. Burnett sat alone, waiting to take responsibility for his erratic outing. On the other side of a row of lockers, slugger Frank Thomas leaned back in his chair, thinking about what he might've done differently in his final trip to the plate.
Both Blue Jays were ready and willing to discuss their part in Toronto's 10-9 loss to Detroit -- a wild contest that saw the Blue Jays nearly erase a nine-run deficit Monday at Comerica Park. If anything, the would-be comeback was a testament to what Toronto's lineup is capable of doing.
Burnett (0-1) took the mound for the first time this season, and was pulled after he wasn't able to record an out in the third inning. The right-hander allowed six runs in two-plus innings, creating an early hole that proved too damaging for his offense to overcome.
"I've got no excuses," Burnett said. "I never really got loose and I pitched behind. There's not a lot you can say from two innings except it's embarrassing. This is the big leagues. It's just unacceptable."
The Blue Jays (1-1) trailed the Tigers (1-1), 9-0, after five innings, but still found a way to climb back into the contest. By the time Thomas walked to the plate in the eighth inning, Toronto had cut Detroit's lead down to one run and a runner stood in scoring position.
The Jays' designated hitter worked himself into a 3-0 count, but then swung at the next pitch and popped out to shortstop Carlos Guillen. Toronto third baseman Troy Glaus followed with a deep fly out, which had Thomas kicking himself for not being more selective.
"My instinct was to take a walk right there and I should've," Thomas said. "I've had so many great hitting counts against [the Tigers] and they never groove it in there, so I've always been aggressive with them. I got myself out, basically."
The fact that Toronto came as close as it did to evening the score was impressive in itself. The Blue Jays were shut out through five innings against Tigers starter Nate Robertson (1-0), who allowed seven hits in 5 2/3 innings. In the sixth, though, Jays second baseman Aaron Hill started the rally by sending an offering from Robertson over the left-field fence for a two-run homer.
Then, the Jays piled on seven more runs against Detroit relievers Jason Grilli and Fernando Rodney in the eighth inning -- highlighted by a three-run triple by pinch-hitter Jason Smith and a two-run double by center fielder Vernon Wells.
"It makes it a little tougher for me to swallow," said Burnett, referring to Toronto's comeback. "But that's what you can look forward to from this team all year. We're never going to quit, and we're never going to give up no matter what the score is."
One reason Thomas signed a two-year deal with Toronto this past winter was because of the potential strength of the club's lineup. Wednesday's performance only reassured Thomas that he made the right choice.
"I don't think any lead is safe with a team full of hitters like this," said Thomas, who accounted for two of Toronto's 16 hits. "We did a heck of a job and we battled. We just fell one run short today. At the same time, any time you can put nine runs on their pitching staff, you've done a good job."
Burnett's downward spiral began when he issued a leadoff walk to Tigers center fielder Curtis Granderson in the third inning. Over the next five batters, Burnett gave up another free pass and yielded four hits, including a two-run single by Guillen. With Detroit leading, 3-0, Toronto manager John Gibbons called reliever Shaun Marcum from the bullpen.
"It was a tough day to pitch, but that's no excuse for anybody," said Gibbons, citing the cold and windy conditions. "That one inning, everything just got away. We need them all here. I wasn't going to let [Burnett] stay out there to rot. I thought we still had a chance."
Marcum then walked Craig Monroe with the bases loaded and, two batters later, Granderson sent an 0-1 pitch bouncing off the railing above the right-field wall for a grand slam. Marcum gave up another run in the fourth, and Victor Zambrano yielded another in the seventh.
"We could've gone in the tank on a cold day and said, 'Let's just get this thing over with,'" Gibbons said. "But we don't have those kind of guys. As close as it got, teams like the Tigers, they're just too strong. We took them down to the wire."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.