Tigers roll with dandy debut of ‘no-nonsense’ Zimmermann

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Miguel Cabrera and Andrew Romine celebrate after the final out in the 4-0 win over the Yankees on Friday.

Detroit -- It must've taken Tigers fans some time to warm up, if they ever did.

The Tigers?

Well, they can't get any hotter.

Behind a marvelous Detroit debut from Jordan Zimmermann and another double-digit hit attack, the Tigers stomped the New York Yankees, 4-0, in the home opener Friday afternoon at Comerica Park.

It was the Tigers' eighth consecutive victory in their home opener, and they're 3-0 on the young season. It marks the second consecutive home-opening shutout for Detroit, which prior to last season hadn't had one since 1965.

"The object is to be a complete team, not a power-hitting team, not a good bullpen team, not a good starting team. We've gotta do everything," said Ian Kinsler, who had two more hits for his third multi-hit game in three games. "You have to do everything well to win in this league.

"We'll see. It's Game 3. It's definitely a talented team and we're just trying to come together to make it all work."

Mission accomplished Friday. The Tigers did everything right, from Nick Castellanos' diving catch of a foul ball in the first inning, to Kinsler's hustle home for the first run, to the pitching -- and that started with Zimmermann.

BOX SCORE: Tigers 4, Yankees 0

Zimmermann was brilliant, tossing seven scoreless innings, while allowing just two hits to a Yankees team that had banged out 24 runs on 29 hits in the last two games.

Signed to a five-year, $110-million deal by the Tigers in the offseason, the expectations for Zimmermann are significant, since he's essentially replacing David Price in the rotation.

So far, so good, as he worked around three walks -- a rarity for him; James McCann said the cold affected his fastball command -- while striking out three. One of those three strikeouts was against the last hitter he faced, Chase Headley, who was frozen on a breaking ball to end the seventh.

"That was gonna be his last hitter right there," manager Brad Ausmus said of Zimmermann, who threw 100 pitches, 64 for strikes. "He's no nonsense, no frills. He's exactly what you want. He doesn't mind the spotlight, but he doesn't need the spectacle."

Asked if Zimmermann could've done any more in his debut, Ausmus quipped, "He could've gone nine."

That wasn't going to happen, not on Opening Day.

But you get the sense it will happen, multiple times, for his new team over the life of a contract that is steep, but not a burden, either, for a guy whose offspeed stuff stole the show on this day.

"It's all about staying healthy," Zimmermann said. "Pitching in this cold wasn't the ideal conditions, but I made it out and I didn't have my best stuff, and I still two-hit the Yankees."

The Tigers’ revamped bullpen finished the job, with Justin Wilson and Kyle Ryan each tossing scoreless innings to end it, Ryan working around a base hit to strike out Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran to finish it off.

Kinsler started out with a leadoff double that got Detroit rolling in the first inning. He scored on Miguel Cabrera's single to right.

"He's been great at the top of the lineup," Justin Upton said. "It's good to see."

Jordan Zimmerman delivers in the first inning Friday.

Castellanos had the third four-hit game of his career, and Cabrera in the seventh inning added a solo homer to right, his first homer of the season. It was off Yankees rookie Luis Cessa, whom the Tigers traded for Wilson -- and was greeted rudely in his major-league debut.

Jose Iglesias had two hits and an RBI, and J.D. Martinez had two hits. Anthony Gose drove in a run with a groundout.

Detroit finished with 13 hits, 10 off promising Yankees youngster Luis Severino. The Tigers have 38 hits in three games for a .325 team batting average.

Of the murmurs among some sports writers that Detroit might have the best offense in baseball, Ausmus said, "I hope they're right."

The Tigers sold 45,049 tickets, making it the fourth-largest crowd in Comerica Park history, third-largest for Opening Day. But many fans clearly stayed away because of the frigid temperatures, even if it did get into the 40s for much of the game.

Hot starts are nothing new under Ausmus, who had the Tigers 27-12 in his first year, 11-2 last year and now 3-0.

So you can understand the tempered expectations. But you can see the vision of first-year GM Al Avila, too, when he was putting this roster together this offseason.

"We did that as a team. As a team, we played great defense. As a team, we hit well. As a team, we ran the bases well," Castellanos said. "And if we do that, we're going to win.

"And I don't even have to talk about Zim, because everybody knows the kind of performance he had."

A hot one -- even in the cold.