Zimmermann has a ‘clunker,’ Tigers crunched

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Josh Donaldson is greeted by Jose Bautista after hitting a three-run homer in the third inning Wednesday.

Detroit -- It's been said, many times, baseball is a funny game.

For example, the previous two games, rookies Michael Fulmer and Matt Boyd combined to hold the thunderous Toronto Blue Jays to two runs, total.

They each make less money per season than Jordan Zimmermann banks per start, yet it was Zimmermann who was rocked in the series finale Wednesday afternoon on a sunny, brisk day at Comerica Park.

The Blue Jays offense, as dangerous as just about any in the game, even if it didn't seem so the first two days, teed off in downing the Tigers, 7-2.

"They've definitely got a good lineup," catcher James McCann said. "He just didn't have his best stuff today, and they took advantage of it."

Justin Smoak, after taking a very close 2-2 pitch for a ball, hit the next one into the seats in right field for a two-run home run in the first. Then, two innings later, right after Zimmermann (8-3) and James McCann had a meeting on the mound to discuss a mix-up on the signs, Josh Donaldson drilled that pitch for a three-run homer, to the delight of a good chunk of the crowd of 36,036. Scores of Blue Jays fans made the trek along the QEW for this series, especially the finale.

BOX SCORE: Blue Jays 7, Tigers 2

After Donaldson was on the previous 2-1 slider, McCann and Zimmermann settled on fastball. It just didn't get far enough inside.

Donaldson finished a double shy of the cycle, as the Tigers' five-game winning streak was snapped.

"This is a team that takes some big swings," Zimmermann said. "Quite honestly, I was pretty bad today. obviously, I'm not happy.

"All pitchers have a few clunkers through the year. You try to limit those."

Nick Castellanos, batting cleanup with Cameron Maybin (wrist) and Victor Martinez both getting the day off, hit a tying two-run homer in the first inning off Blue Jays starter R.A. Dickey (4-6), who lived dangerously, but ultimately got by.

The Tigers had a chance to take an early lead with runners at the corners and one out in the second, but Jose Iglesias was picked off first and Mike Aviles flew out to end the threat.

The next half-inning, Zimmermann walked the No. 9 hitter, Josh Thole -- again, he wasn't happy with the strike zone of Chris Guccione, who heard it from both sides most of the day -- and Jose Bautista doubled. With a base open and Edwin Encarnacion -- whom the Tigers had kept in check this week, as he was 0-for-8 to that point -- on deck, manager Brad Ausmus could've walked Donaldson to help set up the potential double play. They opted against it, and Donaldson hit a crushing, three-run homer.

"You can't continually put hitters on base," Ausmus said. "Eventually, it's going to bite you.

"You may or may not know of it – Encarnacion's very capable of hitting a home run, as well.”

The Blue Jays added two more runs in the fifth, when Donaldson tripled, Encarnacion walked, and Kevin Pillar drove them both home with a triple, also up the gap in right-center.

Needing the double for the cycle, Donaldson grounded out against Anibal Sanchez in the seventh inning. He was on deck when Blaine Hardy struck out Bautista on three pitches to end the top of the ninth inning.

Donaldson, who came into the game 1-for-13 this month, was vying to be just the third Blue Jays player to hit for the cycle, and the first since Jeff Frye in August 2001. At third base, he also made a great diving stop and throw on a smash by Miguel Cabrera.

Sanchez was one of the few bright spots for the Tigers, retiring seven of the eight batters he faced in his second appearance since being demoted to the bullpen. He allowed a leadoff double to Bautista in the seventh, but then got three pretty routine groundouts to escape unscathed.

"I feel good," Sanchez said. "I need to keep working."

Mark Lowe, also scuffling big-time of late, relieved Sanchez, and allowed a leadoff walk to Pillar, but he was caught stealing by McCann, and Lowe got the final two outs with no problems.

The outing for Zimmermann, meanwhile, was the shortest as a Tiger, lasting 4.2 innings. He had a 0.55 ERA at the end of April, and has a 5.68 ERA since.

Justin Upton and Andrew Romine both hit balls to the wall in the fourth inning, but both were caught. The Tigers also had a runner on third base with one out in both the fifth and sixth innings, but stranded them each time.

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Detroit banged out nine hits against Dickey, with Castellanos, Mike Aviles and J.D. Martinez each with two, but the Tigers couldn't manage to cluster them together. The Tigers stranded eight, the Blue Jays three, for a difference of five -- same as the score.

Jesse Chavez (three strikeouts), Drew Storen (despite walking and hitting a batter) and Aaron Loup pitched scoreless and hitless relief for the Blue Jays.

The Tigers began and ended the seven-game homestand with a loss, but still won the five games in between. Not shabby, considering where they were not all that long ago.

"We're rolling, even though things didn't turn out today," Castellanos said. "So what? You're not gonna win every game."

The Tigers are off Thursday, then start a three-game series against the Yankees in New York on Friday night, before visiting the Chicago White Sox for three and the Kansas City Royals for four.

tpaul@detroitnews.com

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