The Blue Jays kicked off the second half of their 162-game schedule on Canada Day at sold-out Rogers Centre, with many in the crowd wearing promotional red baseball caps and red and blue t-shirts, joining together for a rousing national anthem with a monstrous flag unfurled in the outfield, and celebrating a win over the Detroit Tigers.
Watch: Blue Jays 8, Tigers 3
J.P. Arencibia hit a two-run single and Mark DeRosa clubbed a three-run homer in support of starting pitcher R.A. Dickey, for an 8-3 victory, in front of 45.766.
Dickey, his knuckleball dive-bombing at the plate, worked seven innings and allowed both runs in the wake of recording Toronto’s first complete game of the season, a two-hitter against the Tampa Bay Rays last Wednesday.
The Blue Jays played without two of their most productive hitters, DH/first basemen Adam Lind (back spasms) and Edwin Encarnacion (hamstring) . With Encarnacion being a late scratch, manager John Gibbons shuffled the batting order in four different slots, moves that paid off during the game.
Rajai Davis moved to second from fifth, Jose Bautista third from second, Colby Rasmus to fifth from sixth, and Arencibia from the bench into the 6-hole as DH.
Munenori Kawasaki, starting at second and being treated by the crowd to the now familiar “Kawa-saki” chant, started the scoring with a two-out single in the second of left-hander Jose Alvarez. Maicer Izturis scored on the play but Josh Thole was thrown out easily at the plate by left fielder Andy Dirks after running through third-base coach Luis Rivera’s “stop” sign.
One day after failing to score in Boston with the bases loaded and none out in the sixth inning, the Jays loaded the bases with one out in the third, after Jose Reyes had led off the inning with a homer. This time, they capitalized.
Arencibia hit a two-run single and runners advanced to second and third when Dirks’s throw bounced high off the artificial turf, deflecting off the back of Bautista’s helmet. On the play, Bautista tripped over Detroit’s mountain of a catcher, Brayan Pena, who’d blocked the plate with his foot as Bautista came in standing up; the two engaged in a verbal exchange afterwards. Izturis, playing third base with Canadian Brett Lawrie missing the Canada Day game while remaining on the disabled list, brought in the fourth run of the inning with a sacrifice fly for a 5-0 lead.
When Gibbons moved his pegs in the batting order, DeRosa remained in the cleanup spot. Despite his .210 average in part-time play, the 38-year-old veteran has delivered an inordinate number of crucial hits this season. He came through with another, after the Tigers followed the Blue Jays four-run rally by posting two runs off Dickey in the top of the fourth.
With two out, Davis singled and stole second off relief pitcher Luke Putkonen. The Tigers pitched carefully to Bautista, ultimately walking him to get to DeRosa. The right-handed hitter responded with an opposite-field three-run homer for an 8-2 lead.
It remains to be seen whether the lineup shuffle affects Gibbons’ strategy when Melky Cabrera returns from the disabled list.
Bautista, accustomed to hitting third or fourth during his career, struggled to hit for average in the 2-hole during June, although he delivered seven homers. Cabrera had started the season as the regular 2-hitter, behind Reyes.
Davis is starting in his place and plugging speed into the lineup. With two hits on Monday, he has nine in 19 at-bats. In the third inning, he stole third when Pena threw the ball casually back to the mound, then added the strategic steal in the fourth before DeRosa’s homer.
Prince Fielder hit homer No. 14 for the Tigers, off Dickey, but the Jays held .373-hitting Miguel Cabrera hitless. Steve Delabar struck out the side in the eighth inning, getting Torii Hunter, Cabrera and Fielder in a row.
Omar Infante had four hits for the Tigers including a solo homer in the ninth off Aaron Loup.