Encarnacion leads Blue Jays' offense in loss
Alvarez throws one inning in Grapefruit League debut vs. Tigers
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Justin Verlander couldn't no-hit the Blue Jays again in his first start of the spring, but he still held them down long enough for the Tigers to rally. Quintin Berry's two-run triple in the seventh inning continued Detroit's perfect start with a 4-2 win Monday afternoon at Joker Marchant Stadium.
One day after the Tigers belted nine home runs, a far less windy day across central Florida and a far stingier Blue Jays pitching staff set up a low-scoring duel. Verlander officially began the followup to his American League MVP season with two scoreless innings, allowing a Colby Rasmus bloop single for his lone baserunner.
Much like his no-hitter at Toronto last May, Verlander used a slider -- his fourth-best pitch, by his standards -- to keep the Blue Jays off-balance. He only threw one, but it was a good one, freezing Edwin Encarnacion for a called third strike to end the first inning.
"As we all know, he dealt with some wrist issues last year and the previous year," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said of Encarnacion. "But he's come in, felt great -- his swing even looks a little bit more compact, and in the games he's played so far, he has put some good swings on some balls."
Ryan Raburn's third-inning sacrifice fly scored Delmon Young for the game's lone run through five innings until Encarnacion struck for a ground-rule double in the sixth off Phil Coke to drive in Mike McCoy. Ryan Goin's RBI single off David Pauley an inning later put the Tigers behind for the first time this spring, but Andy Dirks' leadoff single in the bottom of the inning and Eric Patterson's one-out walk set up Berry's heroics. Dirks later added a single in the eighth to make it 4-2.
Berry, a speedster signed to a Minor League deal out of the Reds' organization, laced a gapper to left-center field over Anthony Gose, clearing the bases as much of the crowd of 8,357 cheered.
Adam Wilk, a fifth-starter candidate for the Tigers' rotation, followed Verlander with two scoreless innings. Joaquin Benoit made his first appearance of the spring with a scoreless inning of his own.
Up next for the Blue Jays: No. 1 starter Ricky Romero will make his first start of the spring Tuesday, when the Blue Jays host the Phillies at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium. The 27-year-old Romero is scheduled to throw two innings while Jesse Chavez, Chad Jenkins, Luis Perez, and Rick VandenHurk are also expected to pitch. Tuesday's game will mark the return of Toronto's regular lineup following two days of rest to avoid a lengthy road trip.