Burnett then disappeared to the clubhouse, collecting himself after handing the Tigers a three-run advantage. Upon returning to the bench, Burnett was able to witness his teammates piece together a late rally to claim a 6-4 victory, putting the pitcher in the win column for his fifth start in a row.
In each of his previous three outings, including the latest showing in Detroit, Burnett has been on the hook for four runs. In each game, the Blue Jays' offense managed enough support to overcome his mistakes -- this time using a four-run outburst against Detroit's bullpen in a decisive seventh.
"That's three games in a row that they've picked me up," Burnett said. "It's not about me tonight. It's about this team and about how they've been playing."
The win was the second in a row and sixth in the past nine games for the Blue Jays (61-59), who remain eight games behind the Red Sox in the American League Wild Card standings with 42 games to play on the regular-season slate. For Burnett, the win improved his record to 15-9 and gave him seven victories in his past eight trips to the hill.
Against the slumping Tigers (58-61), who have dropped nine of their last 12 contests, Burnett logged six rocky innings, in which he struck out six to up his AL-leading total to 165 whiffs. On this night, though, Burnett surrendered a season-high three home runs and was bailed out by Toronto's bats.
"That's a really good feeling for this team," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said. "We haven't done a lot of that this year. To battle back and win that ballgame is a big win for us, because those are the sorts of things we'd like to do a little bit more often. If we could do that, certainly we'd have a better ballclub."
The Jays' offense was paced by left fielder Adam Lind, who finished with three hits, including a solo homer in the second inning and a single in the ninth that drove in a crucial insurance run. In the seventh inning, Lind jump-started Toronto's comeback with a leadoff single to right field as well.
Trailing, 4-1, Toronto mounted its rally after Zach Miner exited following six sharp innings for the Tigers. After Lind's base hit opened the seventh, he later scored on a groundout by Joe Inglett. Detroit turned to reliever Joel Zumaya (0-2), who yielded a run-scoring single to Marco Scutaro and a two-run double to Vernon Wells.
Wells' two-base hit moved the Blue Jays ahead for good, 5-4 -- effectively erasing Burnett's issues. Burnett didn't make many mistakes, but the few misplaced pitches he did feature wound up costly. After Lind's homer in the second put Toronto ahead, 1-0, Burnett gave up a solo shot to Gary Sheffield in the home half of the inning.
It was the first of two homers Sheffield launched on the night.
"He hit that first ball just like Hank Aaron used to hit home runs," Gaston marveled. "The first home run to left-center field, that was just a high fastball. That's the Sheffield that I'm used to seeing."
In the sixth inning, Magglio Ordonez lifted the first pitch he saw from Burnett deep to right field, where the ball bounced off a railing just over the wall for a leadoff homer. Sheffield later added his second blast and Brandon Inge added an RBI double to complete Detroit's three-run outburst.
With two outs, Inge was caught trying to steal third base, bringing an abrupt end to the sixth. It was a fortunate turn for the Blue Jays, who were able to take advantage.
"After they score the three runs, we seemed to pick it up," Gaston said. "When we got an opportunity to score some runs and drive in some runs, it happened."
After seeing Burnett's slight blowup in the dugout, the Blue Jays' hitters were happy they were able to help the pitcher avoid what would've been a tough loss. Lind said he had one simple reaction after seeing Burnett boil over.
"Just keep battling," Lind said. "A.J. gave us everything he had and you never want your starting pitcher to get the loss."
Burnett certainly was thankful.
"It just shows you that this team is coming together and playing good ball," he said.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.