The Tigers and Blue Jays will begin one of the more important series between the two teams in recent memory Friday night in Toronto.
The Blue Jays lost their latest series to Baltimore, 2-1, as they were unable to close the gap between them and the division-leading O's. Detroit enters having dropped three of four to the Yankees, as the American League Central race has once again tightened up.
The Tigers were without several key pieces for their series in New York, with shortstop Eugenio Suarez and right fielder Torii Hunter out due to injuries. Hunter will likely miss the series opener at the Rogers Centre, while Suarez is on track to return.
On the mound for Detroit on Friday will be Anibal Sanchez, who silenced the Rockies through seven innings in his last start on Sunday.
"I've said it before," manager Brad Ausmus said after that game. "Sanchez, just pure stuff, might have the best stuff on our team."
That's quite a compliment from Ausmus, whose team now boasts the AL's last three Cy Young Award winners.
Sanchez will be pitching at Rogers Centre for the first time since his Tigers debut in 2012, when he allowed three home runs in six innings. He faced Toronto at Comerica Park at the beginning of June and held the Blue Jays to just two hits through seven scoreless innings.
Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey will take the mound for Toronto. He's 6-2 with a 3.84 ERA in 16 career games, nine starts, against the Tigers.
Dickey has averaged a home run per game against the Detroit lineup in his career, and that doesn't mix well with his recent struggles to keep the ball in the yard. He's given up four homers in his last 27 innings pitched.
"Some nights you have to tip your cap, give them credit and learn from what you did poorly and attack the next outing," Dickey said following his recent rough outing against the Astros.
Detroit's lineup presents a much greater challenge, but the team is in the middle of a rough stretch of no off-days from July 29-Aug. 17. Twice this month, the Tigers will play doubleheaders.
"The pennant race at the end of the season is within sight, but still quite a ways away," Ausmus said. "The hot month of August doesn't help."
The dome at Rogers Centre hasn't been closed since July 20, so there might not be a break from the summer heat in the Tigers' near future.
Blue Jays: Cabrera day to day after HBP
Blue Jays outfielder Melky Cabrera was removed from Thursday night's game against Baltimore in the third inning because of a right elbow injury. X-rays were negative, and Cabrera is considered day to day.
Cabrera was hit on the elbow by a 91-mph fastball from right-hander Miguel Gonzalez during the first inning. He initially remained in the game but was later lifted for pinch-hitter Nolan Reimold.
Cabrera entered the game as one of Toronto's hottest hitters. He had hit safely in 17 of his previous 20 games and was batting .392 (31-for-79) with a .455 on-base percentage since July 13.
Tigers: Dirks to resume rehab Thursday
Andy Dirks was expected to continue his rehab assignment Thursday night with Triple-A Toledo.
Dirks was removed from his start at Class A West Michigan during the fourth inning Tuesday after he felt his left hamstring grab while chasing down a fly ball.
The Tigers don't consider the issue overly concerning, as Ausmus said Dirks will continue playing "unless the hamstring ends up more sore than expected."
Dirks is recovering from back surgery and hasn't played in the big leagues this season. He began the rehab assignment last Friday.
• Blue Jays infielder Brett Lawrie was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left oblique on Thursday. Lawrie had just returned to action Tuesday after a DL stint for a broken finger but exited that night's game after three innings.
• Detroit slugger Miguel Cabrera is expected to return to the lineup in Toronto after a routine day off Thursday in New York. Cabrera hit into a double play in a pinch-hit appearance in the Tigers' 1-0 loss.
Matt Slovin is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.