Jordan Zimmermann’s ‘stubbornness’ vs. C.J. Cron costly for Tigers

By Corey Long
Special to The Detroit News
Jordan Zimmermann of the Detroit Tigers pitches against the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday.

St. Petersburg, Fla. — In hindsight, Jordan Zimmermann would have done things differently.

With an 2-0 count against Rays first baseman C.J. Cron and a base open, Zimmermann decided to go after Cron with a slider down in the zone. But it stayed up and Cron hit a three-run homer to give the Rays the lead and eventually a 4-2 win to complete the sweep of the Tigers on Wednesday.

After the Rays got runners on second and third with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning, Zimmermann looked like he might escape the jam after retiring Jake Bauers with an infield pop fly. But he got behind to Cron and chose to attack instead of put him on base.

"Knowing when I got to 2-0  be careful and pitch around this guy," Zimmermann said. "But my stubbornness came in and I thought, Let me throw the slider down in the corner, paint it and get this guy out.’ Those are the ones you hang and three-run homer and we lose the game.

"I've got to be better and when I get 2-0, pitch around him, put on him on base and move on to the next guy. That was the last thing we needed in that situation but that’s what happened. That's the way baseball goes."

Cron has eight hits and seven RBI in his last four games.

More: Henning: Bad decisions left Tigers lean on farm sluggers but outlook improving

Zimmermann said catcher James McCann pointed to his head before the at-bat, telling him to be smart, but Zimmermann didn't see it.

"(Ji-Man) Choi was on deck and we had a little bit more success with him," McCann said. "We had an open base and Cron is definitely their guy right now. He's been hot. The thought was we're going to see if we can try to get him to chase and if he doesn't then, oh well, ball four and we'll go after Choi.

"But somewhere there was miscommunication. Maybe I should have gone out to the mound and reinforced it; it was that big of a spot. At the end of the day it was a mistake, a mistake pitch, a mistake way of attacking him. It was just a mistake all around."

Zimmermann (4-1) lost his first decision since Sept. 21, 2017 against the Twins, a span that covered 12 starts.

He said has not finalized his plans for the All-Star break and will make a decision on whether to go to Dallas for treatment on his back after talking with the training staff.

"We'll see what tomorrow brings,” Zimmermann said. “I feel pretty good now. Tomorrow and the next day are the two worst days for me so we'll see how it is and make a decision tomorrow."

Tracking at Tropicana

The adventures at Tropicana Field continued for Tigers outfielders Wednesday when JaCoby Jones and Mikie Mahtook barely avoided a collision on a short fly ball from Rays catcher Jesus Sucre in the bottom of the second inning.

Jones and Mahtook were both tracking the ball and Jones eventually called it and caught it while he bumped into Mahtook.

"In that situation the ball was going into the triangle and I didn't hear anybody called it," Mahtook said. "I was going to get it until somebody called for it and JaCoby made a late call for it, and luckily he caught it, and I was able to get out of the way a little bit."

Mahtook, who played two seasons for the Rays in 2015-16, said there's no other domed stadium in the major leagues that can replicate the challenges of Tropicana Field.

"The roof is white so you can't really see the ball going up," Mahtook said. "It's tougher in day games because the sun is everywhere. You just have to remind guys to keep their eye on the ball here at all times."

Around the horn

Right hander Shane Greene will be activated from the disabled list before Friday's game against the Astros.

In a corresponding move, right-hander Victor Alcantara was optioned to Triple-A Toledo.

… The Tigers struck out 14 times in their sixth consecutive loss against the Rays. The Rays went to bullpen days for the second straight game.

“You watched it, you witnessed it. We saw a lot of pitchers out there but we didn’t swing very well today,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We had a lot of bad at-bats.”

... Gardenhire says he has a plan Sunday when the Tigers face Justin Verlander for the first time since he was traded to the Astros on August 31, 2017.

“We’re bunting,” Gardenhire joked. “One way or another we’re going to irritate him. I hope we get a hit.”

… Ronny Rodriguez went 0-for-3 but drew another walk batting eighth and playing shortstop. Gardenhire said he was pleased with the steps Rodriguez has taken at the plate.

“He’s getting his opportunity,” Gardenhire said. “You have to adjust up here from Triple-A. This is his first shot and we’ll see how it goes.”

Corey Long is a freelance writer.