Toronto — This was some kind of performance. In fact, it was better than even the numbers, which were very good, might have implied.
Jordan Zimmermann threw a gallant seven innings for the Detroit Tigers on Sunday, allowing a lone run, giving up six hits that were more like three or four, while striking out six Toronto Blue Jays batters, and walking none in Detroit's 9-1 victory.
"Great curveball today," Gardenhire said. "Probably the best I've seen this year. I think he knew we needed that."
Zimmermann indeed knew everyone — including himself — wanted a virtuoso Sunday. The Tigers hadn't won a game in two weeks. And a pitcher who hasn't had the merriest of times since he arrived in Detroit two seasons ago was aching to show his craft was still top-shelf.
Zimmermann lasted seven innings and 97 pitches. He could have had an even tidier start had a couple of defensive plays been made, by Martin and John Hicks, on hard-hit balls, and had a pair of back-to-back infield hits in the fifth been handled.
"My off-speed stuff was really good today," said Zimmermann, who got third-strike swings on five sliders, and another with his curve. "I think the slider's coming back."
Zimmermann's ERA is now 3.91 and moving steadily into the neighborhood the Tigers envisioned when they signed him nearly three years ago to a five-year package worth $110 million.
He said the curveball showed up, as often is the case with a pitcher, somewhat by accident. He had thrown a first-inning change-up to Curtis Granderson that had been high. He went to the more downward-biting curve and saw that he had his third pitch.
"It was good the whole game," said Zimmermann, who explained that two weeks of defeats hadn't been at the forefront of Sunday's thoughts.
But he was glad it had ceased.
"So you guys can stop talking about the losing streak," he said, with a grin.
Quite a catch
Nick Castellanos would have been forgiven for displaying some different emotion. It would have been understood had he stopped, thrown his hands in the air, bent his body downward in a posture of disbelief, and grimaced at what had been taken away in the ninth inning of Sunday's game at Rogers Centre.
He instead gazed at Kevin Pillar in center field, raised his hands and applauded.
The Jays outfielder had just galloped to the fence, 400 feet away, looking as if he was trying to jump a speeding train. Pillar launched himself, with his back to home plate, stretched his glove skyward and reached past the fence to stab Castellanos' blast and cost the Tigers' best hitter a second home run and two more RBIs after Castellanos had hit a grand-slam in the fifth.
"What a play," said Castellanos, who decided a moment of defense so majestic was worth a hooray from everyone, including himself.
"Plays like that are going to happen to somebody," he said. "I'm just happy we won this game."
Gardenhire thought Castellanos had shown grace baseball players, and managers, owe when something spectacular has happened. Even at their expense.
"Even Nick appreciated that one," Gardenhire said. "To climb that wall and make that play, with the timing?"
Castellanos is back on top in Tigers home runs with 13. His grand slam was the fourth of his career. He also singled.
Niko Goodrum had been having his ills of late. They ceased Sunday. He was 4-for-4, with a double.
"I wasn't pressing," said Goodrum, who moved his average from .220 to .236. "Just changed my approach up."
JaCoby Jones also had a better day fter he arrived at Rogers Centre with a .217 batting average.
He doubled in the third, then launched a line-drive homer over the left-center field wall in the ninth that even Pillar couldn't run down.
Tigers at Blue Jays
First pitch: 1:07 Monday, Rogers Centre, Toronto
TV/radio: FSD, MLB/97.1
RHP Mike Fiers (5-5, 4.04), Tigers: On the entire Tigers staff, nobody gives opposing teams as many fits as Fiers — when that 20-mph-plus variation between his pitches is cooking. Blue Jays, beware.
LHP Ryan Borucki (0-1, 3.00), Blue Jays: The 24-year-old made his major-league debut last time out, and was impressive, despite suffering the loss.