TORONTO — Nicholas Castellanos clapped immediately after Toronto Blue Jays centerfielder Kevin Pillar made a home run-stealing catch in the ninth inning.
Castellanos was able to smile about getting robbed when he spoke to reporters.
The Detroit Tigers had inflicted enough damage before Pillar’s highlight-reel grab, as Castellanos broke a tie in the fifth inning with his fourth career grand slam. The Tigers cruised from there to snap an 11-game losing streak with a 9-1 win Sunday at the Rogers Centre.
The streak was on the minds of the Tigers. They’d pressed enough in recent games that manager Ron Gardenhire opted for a pregame meeting. It was a chance to take a breathe or vent, if needed.
Castellanos and Victor Martinez were among those who spoke to the team.
“Don’t think this is worse than it is,” Castellanos said of the message taken away from the morning gathering. “We’ve played a lot of good baseball. We’ve had a lot of leads. We’ve had some just unfortunate stuff.”
Even after the win, Gardenhire had some unfortunate news to share.
Leonys Martin suffered a left hamstring cramp while running to first on a two-out, bases-loaded bunt single in the fifth. It’s the same hamstring landed Martin on the disabled list earlier in the season, and Gardenhire said Martin asked to go on the DL. Gardenhire said a corresponding move will be made to add a player before Monday’s game against the Blue Jays (1:07 p.m., FSD/MLBN).
The Tigers’ losing streak was two games longer than any other team in Major League Baseball this season, and the longest since the L.A. Dodgers dropped 11 in a row last September.
Castellanos described the pregame talk as a “we’re-all-in-this-together conversation, rather than a ass-chewing conversation.”
Several players who struggled offensively in June helped contribute in the win.
Niko Goodrum singled in th first to snap an 0-for-15 drought and finished 4-for-4 with three runs scored.
JaCoby Jones snapped an 0-for-20 slump with a double in the first. He moved from left to center after Martin exited and added a two-run home run in the ninth.
Jose Iglesias chipped in two hits and two RBIs after leading the Tigers with a .304 average in June.
Right-handed pitcher Jordan Zimmermann was also key to the Tigers win. He improved to 3-0 after allowing one run on five hits over seven innings. He didn’t allow a walk and struck out six.
“We’ve been playing good ball, playing good defense,” Zimmermann said of the losing streak. “Just a matter of time before we got that crucial hit at a crucial time. We were able to do that tonight. It was definitely good to see and hopefully you guys can stop talking about this losing streak.”
Zimmermann has allowed four runs over his past five starts, two of which came before a month-long stint on the DL. He matched his longest outing of the season and now has a 1.24 ERA over his past five starts with 23 strikeouts and five walks.
Gardenhire said it was the best he has seen Zimmermann throw the curveball.
“We knew they struggle hitting the curveball,” Zimmermann said of the Blue Jays. “If it was there, we were going to go to it. I had good feel for it in the pen. The first couple I threw out there were good. It’s either curveball or changeup. Rarely do I have both of them. I only threw one changeup today.
“Curveball was definitely a pitch I was able to locate, get ahead with it. Put them away 0-2. It was definitely a good pitch for me.”
Zimmermann said it has been a while since he had the curve going like Sunday.
“I was tinkering with the slider in the bullpen,” he said. “I threw a couple good ones and a couple real bad ones. I moved my fingers a little bit and the slider was actually really, really good today. I was able to throw for a first-pitch strike a slider that didn’t have a much break and then the next one I’d put on the corner and let it run off. Had a little more depth and a little more break.
“It was one of those days where everything was working and I was able to locate pretty well.”
For Zimmermann, the losing streak didn’t feel like it was a long as 11 games.
“I felt like we were still upbeat and having fun playing,” Zimmermann said. “We’d lose a game 4-3 late in the game or something like that. Or score three runs early and then go stale for a while and end up giving it away late on a freaky play or something.
“It was good to get out there and beat these guys on one of their big days of the year.”
The win came as the Blue Jays and the entire country celebrated Canada Day.