Tight strike zone bedevils Zimmermann
Minneapolis — At one point in the third inning, Jordan Zimmermann threw his hands out, exasperated with home plate umpire James Hoye.
Zimmermann had put several pitches on the outside edge of the plate to several of the seven left-handed hitters in the Twins lineup Saturday — 50-50 pitches to be sure — but he was getting none of them.
“I had to stick to the game plan and hope I’d start getting those calls,” Zimmermann said. “Unfortunately, I didn’t get them the whole night. I had a rough time getting my fastball away to the left-handed hitters. A lot of borderline calls that I thought could go either way.
“I just didn’t get the calls tonight.”
Zimmermann is the game’s active leader with 1.92 walks per nine innings. He was coming off his most proficient start of the season (one run, seven strikeouts, in 6⅔ innings against the Royals), where he had an 81-percent strike efficiency.
But in the 6-5 loss to the Twins Saturday, he walked four (one intentional).
“I thought his command was actually good,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “It looked like he was biting at the corners. But when he missed, they got hit.”
A bigger problem than the walks was having to throw too many pitches over the heart of the plate. Television replays showed that Hoye wasn’t giving Zimmermann strikes on pitches on the outer edge of the plate.
“The zone was a little tight,” catcher Alex Avila said. “He didn’t get many calls and it kind of forced him to get it over the middle of the plate — and they didn’t miss them.”
In the third and fourth innings, Zimmermann faced 14 batters and was tagged for five runs on seven hits and a couple of walks. The Twins strung together four straight hits in a three-run third — RBI single by Joe Mauer, RBI double by Robbie Grossman and a sacrifice fly by Rosario.
“I left a few balls over the middle,” Zimmermann said. “I had a lot of deep counts. The first-pitch strikes were good, then ball, ball, ball and the next thing you know it’s 2-1, 3-1, and I am battling.
“And when I did leave balls over the middle of the plate, they got hit.”
It might have been more had it not been for left fielder Justin Upton’s strong right arm. Grossman tried to score from second on a single by Zack Granite. Upton threw a seed to the plate, in plenty of time to nail Grossman.
“I joke with him that he’s been everywhere,” Avila said. “He’s been unbelievable offensively. He’s throwing the ball well, running balls down, running the bases great — he’s been the total package.”
It was Upton’s seventh outfield assist, tied for second most in the American League.
But Zimmermann was done. He left with two on and two outs in the fourth. His line: 3.2 innings, five runs, nine hits, four walks, one strikeout. Not the follow-up he was looking for to his previous gem.