Tigers search for solution vs. Jays to halting 11-game skid

TORONTO — The Detroit Tigers will be trying to avoid making more history Sunday afternoon when they face the Toronto Blue Jays on Canada Day at the Rogers Centre.

After Blue Jays first baseman Justin Smoak smacked a 1-0 fastball from Joe Jimenez for his second career walkoff homer in the bottom of the ninth inning on Saturday, the Tigers have lost 11 games in a row.

The last time the Tigers put together a losing streak like that was 2003. On Sunday, in the third contest of the four-game series, the Tigers will be trying to avoid dipping deeper into their history by losing 12 in a row for the first time since 1996.

The Tigers will start right-hander Jordan Zimmermann (2-0, 4.35 ERA) against Blue Jays left-hander J.A. Happ (10-3, 3.62).

Saturday looked promising for the Tigers when they took a 3-0 lead in the third inning, but the Blue Jays came back to tie in the fifth.

Both Toronto wins in the series have been by one run.

“Honestly, nobody wants to play extra innings,” Smoak said. “To be able to do it in the ninth and get it over with is always a good feeling.”

The Tigers would beg to differ. They would have been happy to try their luck in extra innings if that’s what it takes to end their funk.

“We’re all trying hard,” Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. “Everybody’s trying. We tried all kinds of things today to try to make this happen. And we were in the game again and ultimately we lose the ballgame.”

The Blue Jays have dominated the Tigers at the Rogers Centre in recent years, winning 12 of their past 14 meetings.

There could be times when it seems as if the Tigers might be trying a little too hard to make things happen and then paying for it. First baseman John Hicks, who hit his seventh home run of the season in the second inning Saturday, was not so sure that is the case.

“I don’t think guys are trying to do anything more than we’ve been trying to do all year,” he said. “We’re in a losing streak, but we’re going out every day playing the same way we’ve been playing all year. But when you are losing, things get magnified.”

Losing a close game or a lopsided one does not matter, Hicks said, adding “A loss is a loss.

“They all stink, every loss is frustrating. It just happens to be in a losing streak, so it happens to magnify things more. We’ve had opportunities to win pretty much every ballgame we’ve lost.”

The task Sunday falls to Zimmermann, who will make his 10th start of the season.

Despite pitching five scoreless innings Monday against the Oakland Athletics, Zimmermann did not factor in the decision, He allowed four hits and three walks and struck out three.

In three career starts against the Blue Jays, Zimmermann is 1-1 with a 3.93 ERA. This will be his first start against Toronto since June 8, 2016, when he took the loss, giving up seven runs and eight hits with two walks and three strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings. He will be making his first career start at the Rogers Centre.

Happ has not lost since May 10. In his eight starts since, he is 6-0 with a 2.60 ERA. One of the no-decisions came June 2 in Detroit when he allowed four runs and had eight strikeouts against the Tigers in five innings.

In nine career games (eight starts) against the Tigers, he is 3-1 with a 4.10 ERA.

The Blue Jays lead the season series between the teams 3-2. Two games are left.

Both teams had injuries to relief pitchers Saturday. The Blue Jays put Ryan Tepera on the 10-day disabled list with inflammation in his right elbow and recalled Jake Petricka from Triple-A Buffalo.

Tigers reliever Alex Wilson left the game — and was replaced by Jimenez — in the eighth inning with a strained left calf. He is listed as day to day.