Verlander returns to form as Tigers pummel the Blue Jays

Detroit Tigers staring pitcher Justin Verlander works against the Toronto Blue Jays during seventh-inning.
Detroit Tigers staring pitcher Justin Verlander works against the Toronto Blue Jays during seventh-inning.

TORONTO — The Detroit Tigers didn’t need Miguel Cabrera for one night.

They did need Justin Verlander, and he delivered. Verlander allowed three hits and two walks in seven scoreless innings with five strikeouts, and without Cabrera and Omar Infante, the Tigers pounded out 16 hits in an 11-1 win over the Blue Jays on Thursday night.

Verlander threw his second career no-hitter in his last outing in Toronto in 2011. He didn’t allow his first hit on Thursday night at Rogers Centre until the fourth inning.

Before the game, manager Jim Leyland said that Joaquin Benoit and Drew Smyly would not be available. With a four-game series starting on Friday in Cleveland, Leyland was leaning on Verlander to save the bullpen from unnecessary work. Verlander did.

“Justin was real good, obviously,” Leyland said. “A lot of guys contributed up and down the lineup all night long. Some guys that don’t get to play to much did well, guys that are playing (regularly) did well.”

Cabrera was out with a sore back that had bothered him the past two days. Infante remained out with a shin contusion he suffered in Wednesday’s 6-2 win over the Blue Jays.

Austin Jackson went 4-for-5 with three RBIs and four runs scored. He led off the game with a single and scored on a double by Andy Dirks. Prince Fielder drove in Dirks with an RBI single to give the Tigers a 2-0 lead.

“Man, that guy is an athlete,” Torii Hunter said of Jackson. “You saw his Michael Jordan impression last night.”

Jackson was referring to a leaping catch Jackson made in center field.

“You look at what he did at the plate, he showed some power, some patience,” Hunter said. “And speed on the basepaths.”

Dirks and Jhonny Peralta each had RBI doubles in the third inning to give the Tigers a four-run cushion.

The Tigers added three more runs in the sixth inning — an RBI single by Jackson, a sac fly by Hunter that brought home Don Kelly and RBI infield single by Fielder — to take a 7-0 lead.

Kelly hit a double and Jackson followed with a two-run home run in the eighth inning.

Blue Jays pitcher Casey Janssen gave up a bases-loaded walk to Andy Dirks to bring home Ramon Santiago in the ninth and Hunter drove in another run with a sac fly.

Meanwhile, Verlander was mixing up his pitches well.

“He threw the ball pretty hard, a little bit firmer than he has been at times,” Leyland said. “He used all his pitches like he normally does and he was in command all the way. It looked like he had a good rhythm; a good tempo and he did very, very well.”

Leyland said he planned to let Verlander go out to pitch the eighth inning.

“Had we had a quick inning, but when that inning went so long, I wasn’t going to send him back out there,” Leyland said. “It worked out good.”

Phil Coke allowed one hit in an inning of work. Darin Downs pitched the ninth and gave up one run.

Santiago, who started at second for in place of Infante, went 2-for-5 and scored two runs.

Kelly, who played third in place of Cabrera, went 3-for-4 and scored three runs.

“Santiago contributed, Torii Hunter had a good night, Donnie Kelly had three hits and hit another ball hard and was robbed of a hit, so everybody did a little something to help us win,” Leyland said. “Alex (Avila) did a great job of calling the game.

“It was just a nice win for us.”