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Defense Struggles, Offense Lags Behind as Blue Jays Fall 5-4

Pitching was generally strong, but poor defense prompts Toronto’s 1-5 record.

MLB: Spring Training-Detroit Tigers at Toronto Blue Jays Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Facing a split squad roster, the Blue Jay fell to the Detroit Tigers at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium by a score of 5-4, worsening their spring record to 1-5.

Although Ryan Borucki was initially pegged in for today’s start, a last minute change saw Ryan Tepera take the mound. Ben Nicholson-Smith, on Toronto’s radio broadcast, cited the need for increased familiarity between Tepera and starting catcher Russell Martin as the cause for the switch.

Tepera, in an inning of work, was perfect, followed by Joe Smith in his Blue Jay spring debut. Smith allowed two doubles and a single for the first two runs of the game in the second, followed by Tim Mayza, a low Minor Leaguer, Chris Smith and Mike Bolsinger, who all kept the Tigers off the board.

In the sixth, Bo Schultz gave up one run, and, in the seventh, the Tigers regained the lead as Dominic Leone allowed a single that was poorly fielded by outfielder Josh Palacious. Borucki finally got into the game in the eighth, allowing one hit and pitching well, and Leonel Campos wrapped things up in the ninth for the Blue Jays. Overall, pitching was fairly strong today, although weak defense made it look otherwise.

The Blue Jays squandered chances to score in the first and second, but finally struck in the bottom of the fifth. Darwin Barney singled, advanced to second on a wild pitch, moved to third on a groundout and scored on a wild pitch, making the score 2-1 Tigers. Pillar singled for his second hard hit ball of the game, then Dalton Pompey and Jose Bautista walked to load the bases with two out. Of course, Justin Smoak just has to be batting fourth, and he grounded out to end the rally.

The Blue Jays didn’t stay down for long. In the bottom of the sixth, Reese McGuire walked and came around to score on a double from Darrell Ceciliani, he himself advancing on a sac fly and scoring when Jon Berti singled, tying the game at three, but the inning ended on a double play. Toronto struck again in the bottom of the seventh, as Dalton Pompey homered to left field.

Tomorrow, the Blue Jays will remain home and welcome the Phillies for the second game against Philadelphia this spring. Starting at 1:07 ET, right handed pitcher Aaron Nola is set to start for the Phillies, while Toronto has yet to announce their starter. The game will be available on MLB Network (TV) and (radio), both accessible through MLB.TV (subscription required).

Some other notables: Both Justin Upton and Melvin Upton Jr. got today’s start in left field, for opposing teams. Dalton Pompey made his spring debut in the fifth inning of today’s game, after experiencing a cold earlier in spring training.

Follow Mark Colley on Instagram and Twitter at @360BlueJayNews and @MarkColley.