Tigers battle to avoid series sweep Thursday afternoon

Blue Jays won Wednesday 8-2

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DETROIT - The surging Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday try for a three-game sweep when they visit the slumping Detroit Tigers, and there is a simple formula for their success. "We're picking each other up," Jose Bautista told reporters after Toronto defeated Detroit 8-2 on Wednesday for its 18th victory in the last 22 games. "The day that one guy doesn't come through, then somebody else does. It's what winning teams do, and we're enjoying it. Winning baseball is much more fun." The Blue Jays, who have won four consecutive games and lead the American League East by 4 1/2 games over Baltimore, haven't been in first place this late in the season since 2000.

The Tigers have lost four in a row and 12 of their last 16, but still lead the AL Central by three games over the Chicago White Sox as the division spins its wheels. "I still think of it as a funk," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "I still think this team is way better than we're playing in the last few weeks." Detroit's Justin Verlander is coming off an aggressive performance which snapped a two-start slide and opposes J.A. Happ, who had a three-start winning streak snapped in his last outing.

TV: 1:08 p.m. ET, MLB Network, SNET (Toronto), FSN Detroit

PITCHING MATCHUP: Blue Jays LH J.A. Happ (4-2, 4.10 ERA) vs. Tigers RH Justin Verlander (6-4, 3.99)

Happ yielded a season-high six runs and nine hits while striking out six in 7 2/3 innings of a 6-1 loss to Kansas City on Saturday, but the two-run homer he allowed to Lorenzo Cain to make it 6-1 really strung. "It's frustrating to be out there and an out away from keeping us right in there," the 31-year-old Illinois native told Canada.com. Happ, who had won his previous three turns, prevailed in both road starts this season - Boston and Philadelphia - while compiling a 3.60 ERA over 10 innings.

Verlander was 1-2 with an 8.31 ERA in three starts prior to Friday, when he yielded three runs and five hits while striking out seven in 7 2/3 innings of a 6-3 victory at Seattle. "His velocity was good out of the gate," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus told reporters about the 31-year-old Virginia native. "He attacked the hitters. He wasn't tiptoeing around anyone. He was going after them." Verlander is 3-2 with a 4.02 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and .223 batting average against in eight starts against Toronto.

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