DETROIT -- -- Aaron Loup might have hit a little bit of a rough patch earlier this season, but an argument could be made that he has been one of the game's best relievers since.
Toronto's left-hander has become a stabilizing presence in a group that has dealt with its fair share of adversity this year. A lot of the workload has come during high-pressure situations, and in some cases his quality outs changed the outcome of a game.
One of those moments occurred Wednesday night when Loup worked his magic to escape a bases-loaded situation with nobody out in the sixth, and the Blue Jays once again piled on the runs late in an 8-2 victory over the Tigers at Comerica Park.
"That's the game right there," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "We had just taken the lead and now it's bases loaded and no outs. But Loup has the knack of doing that. He had that one brief spell this year where he had trouble in the zone, but other than that he has been great."
Toronto's bullpen came under fire earlier this season during a very difficult two-week span in late April and early May which saw the club blow several late-inning leads. Loup played a major role in at least one of those losses as he walked the bases loaded and surrendered a three-run double to David Murphy in a loss to the Indians on April 20.
At the time, the numbers weren't exactly pretty and a lack of command was his biggest issue. Loup allowed five runs over his first 8 2/3 innings on seven walks and three hits. The problem became even more pronounced because Sergio Santos and Steve Delabar were suffering from similar problems.
Since allowing three runs against the Pirates on May 3, though, Loup has been almost flawless. He's pitched 15 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings on nine hits and five walks with 13 strikeouts. That type of perfection came in handy on a night when R.A. Dickey had to be pulled with the game on the verge of slipping away.
"It doesn't get any better," Dickey said of Loup's performance. "I've grown accustomed to how filthy he can be on guys. I was hopeful that we were going to get out of that with at least just one run. But when you get out of a bases-loaded, no-outs situation -- against that lineup -- it's phenomenal. He did a fantastic job."
Dickey started the inning by walking Austin Jackson on seven pitches. Alex Avila followed with a single to left, and another walk to Nick Castellanos marked the end of the line for Dickey.
It seemed as though it was a nearly impossible situation for the 26-year-old Loup to get out of, but he somehow found a way to get the job done. Loup retired the first batter by getting pinch-hitter J.D. Martinez to strike out on a 2-2 changeup. Rajai Davis popped out to the catcher on the first pitch he saw, and then Loup got Ian Kinsler on a weak popup to first.
Loup continued on through the end of the seventh inning to preserve the win. It was another night at the office for the lefty, who has allowed just 16.1 percent (5-of-31) of inherited runners to score this season.
"It's kind of one of those situations where you're almost thinking you're bound to give up at least one, possibly two, but you try to limit the damage as much as possible," Loup said. "Tonight I guess was one of those lucky nights where you kind of pull a rabbit out of your hat, that's what I called it. Usually you don't get out of situations like that."
Toronto fell behind early on a pair of solo home runs by Miguel Cabrera and Kinsler but regained its footing with a two-out rally in the sixth. Melky Cabrera doubled and Jose Bautista walked to put runners on first and second vs. right-hander Rick Porcello.
Adam Lind then stepped to the plate and fell behind 0-1 before he lifted an 89-mph fastball to right-center field. The ball appeared to be well hit but didn't travel all that far, although it was still deep enough to evade the outstretched glove of Jackson.
Cabrera and Bautista came around to score without a throw as the Blue Jays took a 3-2 lead they would not relinquish.
"When you have two outs, you're in the driver's seat in that inning," Porcello said. "The walk bothered me, and the hit bothered me, too, obviously. Then I got put into a situation where you've got a very good RBI hitter up. I felt like I made a pretty good pitch to him, but he put a good swing on it. He drives it in the alley and scored two and that was the difference."
Toronto added to its lead in the eighth inning. Jose Reyes hit a single, advanced to second on a throwing error and then scored on a single by Cabrera. Two batters later, Lind had another RBI double, and Steve Tolleson added an RBI on a groundout. All three of those runs were charged to right-hander Evan Reed, who retired one batter.
The Blue Jays will have a chance to go for the three-game sweep on Thursday afternoon. Toronto has swept three of its past four series dating back to May 20.