Toronto Blue Jays hitting coach Mike Barnett had a little chat with his hitters before last night's game against the Detroit Tigers.
He wanted to remind them what they had been doing right in hitting so well for most of the season. It was just a little nudge from coach to player.
Barnett preaches much the same thing from spring training through the regular season. He wants his batters to make the opposing pitchers work hard for outs. He wants to prevent eager swings and he wants his hitters to approach each pitch with the idea of taking it up the middle or the other way.
The Blue Jays responded last night, posting 11 hits en route to an 8-2 victory over Detroit in front of 16,052 at Comerica Park. It also helped that Toronto ace Roy Halladay was on the mound. Blue Jays batters knew they were likely to get a solid outing from their starter.
Halladay and a return to hitting basics was a winning combination as the Blue Jays ended their losing streak at four games.
Halladay, 12-2, allowed nine hits and two earned runs over seven innings of work. He threw an economical 78 pitches, 53 of them strikes, and didn't walk a batter.
Trever Miller took over in the eighth and threw two innings of no-hit baseball.
Despite last night's result, the Tigers played a good series in a season that has had few highlights for them. By taking two of three from the Blue Jays, they won a series at home for the first time this year.
During his meeting with the players, Barnett offered reminders about what the Blue Jays had been doing to make them one of the better hitting teams in the majors. He said that after facing good starting pitching from Montreal's Claudio Vargas and Tomo Ohka in weekend losses at the SkyDome, the Jays batters were beginning to press during the two losses to the Tigers.
During those games, the Tigers also got good pitching. But by not working the counts or being patient, the Blue Jays were swinging too eagerly, getting ahead of themselves at the plate. They were also helping out the opposition by chasing pitches that were out of the strike zone.
In the losses to the Tigers, Barnett said 38 of Toronto's 54 outs were on swings that were too early. Usually for the Jays this year, there might be seven or eight.
"It's human nature, you're going to see guys press a little bit," Barnett said.
It's also unreasonable to expect a team to continue to hit the way the Blue Jays did for a long stretch. But Barnett's path is to limit the length of the drought and maintain a consistent approach.
Last night's Tigers starter, Adam Bernero, lasted 31/3 innings (45 pitches, 29 strikes) and gave up five earned runs and seven hits, including two home runs.
He dropped to 1-12 on the season.
The Blue Jays scored twice in the first inning, which started with Shannon Stewart's double. He later scored on a groundout by Vernon Wells. That was the first of four runs batted in for Wells last night, giving him 80 for the season. Carlos Delgado added a solo home run, his 27th.
In the third inning, Wells made the score 4-0 with a two-run homer, No. 21 on the season.
Detroit's Steve Sparks took over for Bernero with two on and one out in the fourth. He limited the damage to one run on Chris Woodward's sacrifice fly.
In the fifth inning, Delgado hit another solo homer, making the score 6-0.
The homers gave Delgado 91 RBIs, making him the ninth hitter in history to reach 90 or more RBIs before the All-Star Game. The Tigers' Hank Greenberg (103 in 1935) holds the record for most RBIs before the break.
The Tigers came back in the bottom of the fifth, as Carlos Pena and Eric Munson singled. Then Matt Walbeck drove in a run. The Tigers scored again in the sixth on triples by Dmitri Young and Pena.
The Blue Jays finished the scoring in the seventh inning, scoring on a single from Wells and a sacrifice fly by Greg Myers.
The Blue Jays were originally scheduled to have today off. But because of a rainout at Baltimore last month, they will play the rescheduled game tonight at Camden Yards.
That makes it a four-game series, with Doug Davis, Kelvim Escobar, Cory Lidle and Mark Hendrickson the scheduled starters for Toronto.
Jason Johnson, Pat Hentgen, Rick Helling and Sidney Ponson are scheduled to pitch for Baltimore.