Detroit — Whatever the explanation — and if you have one, contact the Detroit Tigers — Jordan Zimmermann is becoming more of an ordeal than a competitive presence.
He and the Tigers got beat up Friday night by the Dodgers, 8-5, at Comerica Park, messing up what could have been a lovely party for Justin Upton, who crashed two home runs, a double and a single in what is turning into a radiant year for the Tigers left fielder.
But the Zimmermann linescore, like an accident report, recorded somber events: 5 1/3 innings, 10 hits, seven runs, two walks, five strikeouts.
Zimmermann’s season ERA is 5.87. No one need remind the Tigers that not two years into a $110 million contract, this is looking like an overpriced, pre-bubble house now under water.
“I can’t keep getting my (tail) kicked,” said Zimmermann, who in his last two innings made what was, for him, a dramatic change: moving from the third-base side of the pitching rubber to the first-base end. It’s a move of 5-6 inches, in his estimation, “and it feels like I’m throwing to a different planet.”
But, as he stood in front of his locker late Friday, Zimmermann was feeling the despair that might have set in on a team that’s stuck with his contract and, at the moment, with a pitcher who postgame: “I’ve got to do something. It can’t get any worse than this.”
Neither was his manager, Brad Ausmus, writing blue-sky reviews after another bad Tigers start that has seen the team lose 11 of its last 13.
“You’re not gonna win a lot of games when you give up that many runs,” said Ausmus, who saw Zimmermann in his previous start get tagged by the Twins for seven runs. “The last two games, it’s been a case of giving up too many home runs and walking too many batters.
“His slider was a bit flat tonight, and they took advantage.”
Included in those 10 Dodgers hits were six doubles. A couple of realities there: The Dodgers aren’t 86-34 because they fail to drive hittable pitches. And an ERA of 5.87 doesn’t develop unless you’re throwing too many pitches that are ripe for mashing.
Zimmermann’s Friday fade seemed to sap a Comerica crowd that was particularly strong by 2017 standards: 32,841, many of whom clearly had shown up not only because the night was beautiful, but because the kingly Dodgers were in town for one of those interleague novelty series.
The Tigers tried to treat their home folks hospitably when they popped the Dodgers for a 2-0 lead in the first.
Upton, who had three hits including a homer, hoisted a deep fly ball to the top of the fence at the 420-foot mark in center. Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson might have caught it with a better-timed jump. But it crashed against the fence for a double that scored Ian Kinsler, who had led off with a walk.
Upton scored on a follow-up double to left-center by Miguel Cabrera and it was 2-0 Detroit.
Zimmermann, though, has had a horrible pattern in 2017. He can fly through four or five innings and then suddenly get ripped. He can have a 1-2-3 inning, as he did in the first, and then comes hammer time.
The Dodgers ganged up on him in the second for two doubles, three singles, and a walk. Suddenly, it was 4-2 Dodgers, and Comerica’s crowd began to see why the Dodgers have been destroying teams, and bad pitching, for the past four months.
Ausmus was taking notes here, as well.
“It’s always a blow when you take a lead and immediately give ‘em (runs) back the next half-inning,” he said. “It gives the other team life.”
The Dodgers got two more runs against Zimmermann in the fourth, thanks to a walk and two more doubles. And, of course, it was a leadoff double in the sixth that set up Chris Taylor’s RBI single that sent Zimmermann to the dugout with the Dodgers up, 7-3.
The Tigers had gotten their third run in the third when Upton popped a high fly to the corner in left. Cody Bellinger, the Dodgers left fielder, was a step tardy in getting to the fence, or he likely would have snagged Upton’s rainbow.
It instead fell barely into the bullpen for Upton’s 24th home run. Naturally, he wasn’t finished.
The Tigers got another run in the sixth when Victor Martinez hit his 10th homer of the year, on a line, well beyond the 330-foot corner in right.
They added their final run, with a flourish to Upton’s grand evening, when he rammed, majestically, a Kenley Jansen cutter into the distant left-center field seats, nearly against the brown brick Hall of Fame wall.
Cabrera and Nicholas Castellanos followed with singles that gave the Tigers a shot to at least tie it as Martinez strode to home plate with one out. But he struck out, as did James McCann, and the Dodgers had tucked away another W.
Tigers hitters, in fact, had a fine night against Dodgers starter Rich Hill and his bullpen mates: 14 hits, with Cabrera, Martinez, McCann, Mikie Mahtook each getting two hits.
Likewise, their pitching apart from Zimmermann’s start was fine (Daniel Stumpf, Warwick Saupold, Matt Boyd, Joe Jimenez in relief).
But seven runs against your starter makes it difficult to beat any team. It’s doubly difficult when that team with all the early runs is the gang that has been the rage of baseball.