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Liriano rallies but Tigers' slide hits 10 in Toronto

MLB.com @beckjason

TORONTO -- The throw from Nicholas Castellanos hit the artificial turf of the Rogers Centre infield, rather than the dirt, and bounced to Jeimer Candelario, right where his glove needed to be in order to retire Yangervis Solarte trying to go from first to third on a Kendrys Morales single.

It was the first out Francisco Liriano needed in the third inning, but it essentially erased a baserunner for Justin Smoak's two-run home run two pitches later.

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TORONTO -- The throw from Nicholas Castellanos hit the artificial turf of the Rogers Centre infield, rather than the dirt, and bounced to Jeimer Candelario, right where his glove needed to be in order to retire Yangervis Solarte trying to go from first to third on a Kendrys Morales single.

It was the first out Francisco Liriano needed in the third inning, but it essentially erased a baserunner for Justin Smoak's two-run home run two pitches later.

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Video: DET@TOR: Castellanos nabs Solarte at third base

Five batters later, Liriano was a pitch away from stranding the bases loaded and holding his damage at that. He induced Randal Grichuk to chase a slider headed for the dirt, but Grichuk pounded it into the dirt in front of the plate, sending it floating down the third-base line for a chopper that left Candelario no out anywhere as Russell Martin charged home.

Video: DET@TOR: Grichuk drives in a run on an infield knock

Those were essentially the bookends of a three-run inning that comprised all the scoring off Liriano in his return to Rogers Centre. It was all the offense the Blue Jays needed behind Marcus Stroman in a 3-2 win.

"It's the same story," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Either you pitch really good and you don't score, or you don't pitch good enough. It just extends on."

This is how losing streaks prolong. In this case, the Tigers' 10th consecutive loss marked their longest streak since September 2003, when they were in the home stretch of a 119-loss season. That team also had two nine-game losing streaks and an 11-game skid.

Video: DET@TOR: Jones comes home on double play in the 3rd

This team isn't headed for those depths. Detroit had climbed within a game of .500 when the skid began, squelching the lingering sense the team could hang around the American League Central long enough to make the late summer suspenseful. The recent woes also make general manager Al Avila's job simpler, getting back to the plans he had coming in -- keep building for the future, and trading marketable veterans for prospects who could help that plan.

That's where Liriano comes in. He was in the Blue Jays' rotation at this point a year ago before being traded to the Astros, where he became a lefty reliever on a World Series championship team. The return in that deal, Teoscar Hernandez, started in left field and batted second Friday for Toronto. Hernandez has an .828 OPS after singling off Liriano and drawing a walk off Buck Farmer on Friday.

The possibility of a similar deal this season was among the enticements for the rebuilding Tigers to sign the 34-year-old Liriano as a free agent in Spring Training. If it happens, it would mark his third consecutive year with a midseason trade.

"I just try to control what I can," Liriano said. "I cannot control that. The only thing I can do is go out there and pitch every five days, and try to help the team win some ballgames, and whatever happens, happens."

He can, however, control what Avila can do. The better Liriano pitches as July nears, the better the Tigers' chances of getting a return, which made Friday's outing bigger for reasons beyond facing his old teammates. Liriano had allowed seven earned runs in nine innings over his previous two starts despite 11 strikeouts. Friday's outing was a step in the right direction, though it was ultimately his third consecutive loss.

Toronto had just one ball in play with an exit velocity of 100 mph or faster according to Statcast™, so Liriano didn't allow solid contact. He finished with three runs on seven hits over six innings with a quartet of walks and strikeouts, his third quality start to go unrewarded since his last win, April 28.

"He did his job," Castellanos said. "That's all you can ask. That's why it's called a quality start. We didn't give him the support he needed."

MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Candelario homers: Candelario was in a 2-for-25 slump when he stepped to the plate and jumped Stroman's first pitch of the seventh inning, sending a two-seamer out to left for his 12th home run of the season to halve Detroit's deficit. Three of his homers this year have been on the first pitch of an at-bat.

Video: DET@TOR: Candelario starts the 7th with a home run

"I'm trying to be in a good position to drive the ball all the time," said Candelario, who improved to 4-for-14 with two home runs and four RBIs against Toronto this season. "I've been working hard to be short and quick to the ball."

HE SAID IT
"Oh, I think it's already piled on. I don't think we have to worry about that. We're deep into that pile-on. Now we have to figure out how to get out of the funk and win a ballgame. Right now we're in that 'oof' mode: How are we going to do this?" -- Gardenhire, on how to prevent the team's recent struggles from piling on

UP NEXT
Three years and three days after Matthew Boyd (4-6, 4.15 ERA) made his Major League debut at Rogers Centre, the former Blue Jays prospect returns to take the mound for the Tigers against his old team Saturday in a 1:07 p.m. ET start. Sam Gaviglio (2-2, 3.98) will start for Toronto.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

Detroit Tigers, Francisco Liriano