Detroit – The Tigers’ feel-good Sunday was interrupted in the top of the sixth inning when Jordan Zimmermann grabbed at his right groin area after throwing a pitch to Steve Pearce.
They still won the game and took the series from the Rays, 9-4. They have now won six of seven.
But the win was angst-ridden, even after Victor Martinez made it a five-run spread with a two-out, two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth.
“You certainly don’t want to see the guy who’s been your best pitcher all year get injured,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “We will reserve judgment until we know what it is. We know it’s a groin, but until we get the results of the MRI, we don’t know how severe.”
The Tigers were in full cruise mode, up 6-2 with two outs in the sixth. They scored the six runs off Rays ace Chris Archer, chasing him from the game after three innings. Miguel Cabrera knocked in two of them and hit a 433-foot home run into the shrubbery in center field.
And Zimmermann, after giving up a two-run home to Logan Morrison in the second inning, had retired 12-of-13 hitters before wincing in pain on the pitch to Pearce.
He left the game immediately with trainer Kevin Rand. The initial report was he strained his right groin and, as Ausmus said, he went for an MRI after the game and was not made available to the media.
“He didn’t overdramatize it, so we will see how it turns out,” second baseman Ian Kinsler said of Zimmermann. “As far as the team, it’s next guy up. The next guy in line has to be ready.”
The Tigers will have some time to determine their next move. With an off-day Thursday, the Tigers can skip Zimmermann’s next start and have 10 days before they would have to determine if he needs to go on the disabled list.
“Yeah, we might not need a starter for a while,” Ausmus said. “Depending on how long Zimm is out, we may or may not have to make a move.”
The clubhouse doors were kept closed for 25 minutes after the game while Ausmus, his staff, general manager Al Avila and assistant general manager David Chadd discussed the situation.
“We also have (starting pitcher) Shane Greene not too far away (from coming off the DL),” Ausmus said. “There are a lot of moving parts. Matt Boyd (left-handed starter) has pitched well at Toledo. But with the off-day, we have some flexibility. It just depends on the amount of time Zimm’s going to miss.”
The game got a little tense after Zimmermann left.
Drew VerHagen, who was sent back to Toledo after the game, gave up a two-run home run (also into the shrubs in center) to Tim Beckham in the seventh, cutting the lead to 6-4.
Then, more bad news in the bottom of the seventh.
Cabrera, who had three hits and has been on a tear the past week, took a pitch off the outside of his left knee from Rays reliever Dana Eveland leading off. He tried to stay in the game, but Jose Iglesias came on to pinch run.
The Tigers called it a contusion and listed Cabrera as day to day.
“I don’t expect Miggy’s to be anything serious,” Ausmus said. “He got hit right on a nerve and it sent pain from his knee down his leg. The level of concern there is much lower than with Zimm.”
The Tigers wound up tacking on a run in the seventh, but they left plenty more on the bases. A double by Nick Castellanos and an intentional walk to pinch-hitter Justin Upton loaded the bases.
Eveland walked Cameron Maybin to force home the seventh run of the game. But the Tigers left them loaded after Jarrod Saltalamacchia struck out and Andrew Romine grounded out.
Maybin had a single, three RBIs and robbed Pearce of extra bases with a sensational running catch while crashing into the wall in center field.
“He’s been a spark plug, no question,” Ausmus said of Maybin. “He’s been outstanding. Couldn’t ask for any more out of him.”
Mark Lowe cleaned up his own mess nicely in the top of the eighth. After giving up a pair of singles, he struck out Steven Souza Jr., and Morrison, then got pinch-hitter Corey Dickerson to pop out.
Victor Martinez's sixth homer of the year allowed the team and the crowd to exhale, finally. But in the clubhouse, the concern for Zimmermann was palpable.
“He was the pitcher of the month last month,” J.D. Martinez said. “He’s one of our aces. We need him back.”