TORONTO — When Aaron Sanchez exited his start on Saturday he had a simple message for Trent Thornton: don't mess it up.
The rookie right-hander was confused at first, before realizing Sanchez was referring to the string of scoreless innings Blue Jays starters had amassed to start the season.
Thornton pitched five scoreless innings in his big league debut, but did not factor into the decision as the Blue Jays fell 4-3 in 11 innings to the Detroit Tigers on Sunday afternoon.
"It was pretty much everything I ever dreamed of since I was four years old," said Thornton who surrendered two hits while striking out eight. "I was able to go out there and kind of show I belonged there, had my family out to witness that, it was really special."
Nicholas Castellanos delivered an RBI single in the 11th and Daniel Stumpf (1-0) picked up the win as the Tigers (2-2) earned a split of the series with the Blue Jays (2-2). Shane Greene provided the save in the victory.
Thomas Pannone (0-1) was saddled with the loss.
In the fifth, Thornton got Mikie Mahtook swinging to record his eighth strikeout of the afternoon setting a new franchise record for strikeouts in a major league debut. The record was previously held by Matthew Boyd and Marc Rzepczynski who each recorded seven strikeouts in their respective debuts.
Toronto starters have now combined for a franchise-best 24 shutout innings to start the season — the first team to do so since the 1994 Atlanta Braves' starters tossed a combined 25 scoreless frames.
"That's the main (reason) we've been in every game: pitching and defence. I feel really good about it," said Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo. "They have been outstanding, the whole rotation, they've been pretty good. We have a chance every day."
With Tim Mayza on in relief, Niko Goodrum led off the seventh with a double and later scored on a bases-loaded walk issued to Jordy Mercer by Javy Guerra. Jeimer Candelario then singled to left scoring a pair of runs.
Candelario finished the afternoon going 5-for-6 with a pair of RBIs in the win.
Elvis Luciano became the youngest pitcher in Blue Jays history to make an appearance when he came on in relief of Guerra with two out in the seventh. The 19-year-old is also the first player born in the 2000s to appear in a Major League game.
"He was really good. He impresses me with that, being that young and in that situation when he came in, he gave us a chance," Montoyo said. "He gave us a chance to tie the game. He's been very good.
"He's got the stuff to compete in the big leagues, 95, 94 with good changeup."
Tigers starter Matt Moore (0-0) went seven innings allowing just two hits while striking out six and walking two.
Toronto responded in the eighth with Joe Jimenez on in relief for the Tigers, Kevin Pillar reached on a single and advanced to third on a ground rule double from Richard Urena. Rowdy Tellez, pinch-hitting for Luke Maile, then took Jimenez 1-1 changeup over the wall in centre field for his first home run of the season tying the game 3-3.
Notes: Urena replaced Freddy Galvis (lower back tightness) at shortstop in the Blue Jays' starting lineup prior to Sunday's series finale with the Tigers. … Blue Jays LHP Clayton Richard (right knee), Monday's scheduled starter, is expected to be placed on the disabled list. RHP Sean Reid-Foley will get the ball as Toronto opens a three-game series with the Baltimore Orioles. …Sunday's announced attendance was 16,098.
Dhiren Mahiban, The Canadian Press