TORONTO — He may have allowed a trio of home runs, but Anibal Sanchez still made a good first impression with his new Tigers teammates.
Edwin Encarnacion, Colby Rasmus and Yunel Escobar all connected off Sanchez in his Detroit debut, leading the Toronto Blue Jays to a 5-1 victory Saturday.
“He knows what he’s doing, he’s got some weapons,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “He got a couple of balls up and paid the price for that but he’s a good looking pitcher. I like him a lot.”
The Tigers have lost three straight and four of five after a five-game winning streak that briefly lifted them into first place in the AL Central. Outfielder Brennan Boesch said the Tigers are too “battle-tested” to worry about slipping back to second place.
“No one in here is going to be shaken by a couple of games that don’t go our way,” Boesch said.
Detroit, which had not lost three straight since June 3-6, has scored just nine runs in its past four defeats.
“Right now, you can’t sugarcoat it, we’re not hitting,” Leyland said. “We’re not driving in runs and we’re not hitting.”
Sanchez, acquired from Miami earlier in the week along with infielder Omar Infante, gave up five runs and eight hits in six-plus innings. The three homers he surrendered were a season-high.
“He’s got good stuff, a good idea of how to get guys out,” Boesch said. “I thought he pitched pretty well. They jumped on a couple of pitches, that was it. For the most part, he looked like someone who’s really going to help us out.”
Sanchez (5-8 overall) lost to Toronto for the second time this season; he gave up six runs in 3 1-3 innings of a 12-5 loss on June 22 while pitching for the Marlins.
Encarnacion hit his 28th home run and Rasmus went 2 for 3 with three RBIs in his first start of the season at designated hitter.
Henderson Alvarez (7-7) pitched seven innings for the win.
“I felt great,” Alvarez said through a translator. “All of my pitches were down in the zone and every pitch I threw was working.”
Facing Detroit for the first time, Alvarez (7-7) allowed one run and five hits. He walked two and struck out four.
“He had a fastball that was more electric than we anticipated,” Boesch said.
Alvarez’s only walks were issued consecutively, to Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder in the sixth, but Delmon Young and Brennan Boesch both flied out to end the threat.
J.A. Happ worked the final two innings for Toronto.
Rasmus drove in Toronto’s first run with a sacrifice fly in the third. Detroit tied it in the fourth when Young hit a two-out single and Boesch followed with a double to center, the only extra-base hit allowed by Alvarez.
The Blue Jays reclaimed the lead in the bottom half when Encarnacion led off with an opposite-field drive to right.
“Encarnacion is hitting the ball out of the park almost every night it seems,” Boesch said.
Escobar, who returned to the lineup after missing the past three games with a sore back, made it 3-1 with a leadoff homer to center on Sanchez’s first pitch of in the sixth, his seventh.
“They were really aggressive on my first pitch,” Sanchez said.
The Blue Jays chased Sanchez and padded their lead in the seventh. Rajai Davis doubled and stole third before Rasmus ended Sanchez’s outing by hitting his 18th homer.
NOTES: Blue Jays OF Jose Bautista swung a bat before the game, the first time he’s done so since injuring his left wrist July 16 at New York. Bautista is eligible to come off the 15-day DL on Aug. 1, but manager John Farrell said Bautista will likely need a few more days to recover. … Toronto’s Adam Lind (back) missed his second straight game. … Leyland said OF Ryan Raburn and C Gerald Laird would start Sunday against Blue Jays LHP Brett Cecil. … Attendance was 41,832.