Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander kicks at the mound after giving up a solo home run to Toronto Blue Jays' Justin Smoak during the fifth inning of a baseball game Sunday, July 5, 2015, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)
Duane Burleson
July 05, 2015

DETROIT (AP) The Detroit Tigers need strong performances from Justin Verlander if they are going to win their sixth straight AL Central title, and right now the former ace is far from his best.

Verlander remained winless in four starts since missing the first two months of the season because of a strained right triceps. He allowed seven runs Sunday as his ERA ballooned to 6.75 ERA during the Tigers' 10-5 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays.

Jose Bautista and Justin Smoak homered in a six-run fifth inning against the 2011 AL Cy Young Award winner and MVP, who is 15-14 since sports-hernia surgery before the 2014 season.

Once a famed perfectionist, Verlander (0-2) gave up seven hits and two walks in five innings, striking out five. He needed 94 pitches to get 15 outs.

''You can look at this in two ways,'' he said. ''You can look at the fifth inning and look at it negatively, or you can look at the rest of it, and look at it positively. My stuff is better than it has been in a couple years. I just need to fine-tune it.''

Detroit reached the midpoint of the season at 41-40, its poorest record since a 39-42 mark for the first half in 2012. The Tigers trail first-place Kansas City by six games and are 1 1/2 games behind Minnesota.

''If you look around this clubhouse, we've got a lot of veterans who know what it takes,'' said J.D. Martinez, who hit his 23rd homer. ''They know to lock it down. ... That's something that Kansas City struggled with last year, but they have a lot more experience this time.''

Toronto stopped a three-game losing streak and won for just the second time in seven games.

''We definitely needed this one,'' Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. ''We've had to go against (Anibal) Sanchez and (David) Price the last two nights, and we've got (Chris) Sale tomorrow, so we needed a game where the offense could get things going.''

Marco Estrada (6-4) improved to 5-1 in his last seven starts, allowing two runs and five hits in five innings. Roberto Osuna got four outs for his third save.

''It is always great to get a win, but today was even better because it is my birthday,'' said Estrada, who turned 32. ''The guys got me a nice present by putting up 10 runs.''

Toronto went ahead after seven pitches when Jose Reyes led off with a bloop double and scored on Josh Donaldson's single. Verlander's error on an errant pickoff attempt allowing Donaldson to take third, but pitched out of the jam.

Verlander didn't allow another hit until the fifth, helped by a spectacular play by Jose Iglesias that ended the fourth. The shortstop ranged into the hole and threw to second for a forceout.

''I was seeing reactions that I haven't seen for a while on my offspeed pitches, and that felt good,'' Verlander said. ''It is a shame that I fell out of sync in the fifth, but this is only my fourth start. You have to keep that in mind.''

Danny Valencia walked leading off the fifth after being down 0-2 in the count, Kevin Pillar singled and Devon Travis hit an RBI double. Reyes' groundout made it 3-0 and moved Travis to third, and Donaldson singled through a drawn-in infield. Bautista followed with a two-run homer over the Tigers bullpen in left and, four pitches later, Smoak homered to right for a 7-0 lead.

Ian Kinsler hit a two-run triple in the bottom half, and Martinez hit his 10th homer in his last 12 games, a sixth-inning drive off Bo Schultz that cut the deficit to 7-3.

Making his first major league relief appearance, Drew VerHagen walked the first three batters in the seventh before Alex Wilson came in. Russell Martin and Devon Travis added RBI singles.

Detroit added two more runs against the Toronto bullpen on an Anthony Gose homer and James McCann's RBI single.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Blue Jays: LHP Felix Doubront, who spent much of the first half of the season recovering from a shoulder injury, could fill the vacant spot in Toronto's rotation Tuesday in Chicago. Doubront was called up on Friday, and came through a 2 1/3-inning relief outing that night without problems.

Tigers: Cabrera spent some team with the team after Friday's calf injury but will not make Detroit's upcoming trip in order to stay off his leg and get treatment. Cabrera was placed on the disabled list for the first time in his career Saturday, and is expected to miss at least six weeks.

UP NEXT

Blue Jays: Mark Buehrle (9-4) starts Monday at his old team, the Chicago White Sox, and faces former protege Sale (6-4). It will be the first meeting between the pair since Buehrle left Chicago after the 2011 season.

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