DETROIT – 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.
"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 in five innings. Roberto Osuna got four outs for his third save.