Rough day: Tigers throw 190 pitches, Zimmermann frustrated after loss
Detroit — The Hall of Fame ceremonies Sunday in Cooperstown provided some joy for Tigers fans; a chance to bask in the glory days, to once again cheer Alan Trammell and Jack Morris and that magical championship ride in 1984.
Meanwhile, back in the here and now, the struggle remains very real.
"Let's just throw this game out and go on to the next one," manager Ron Gardenhire said after the Central Division-leading Cleveland Indians pounced on starter Jordan Zimmermann early and beat the Tigers, 8-1.
"Zimm just didn't have it." Gardenhire said. "It just wasn't there. You could see it. He didn't have his stuff and those guys made him pay."
Zimmermann, who disagreed with that assessment, lasted just three innings, his shortest outing of the season, other than his previous start against the Indians in April when he was KO’d by a liner to the jaw in the first inning. This one as a slower burn.
"To be honest, I thought I had pretty good stuff, just the curve ball wasn't there," he said. "It was just one of those days. It didn't matter what I threw up there, no matter how far off the plate, they were going to put the bat on the ball."
He was tagged for five runs and six hits, including home runs by Melky Cabrera and Yonder Alonso. He threw 80 pitches in three innings, 36 pitches in the second inning alone.
The Tigers used six pitchers on the day and threw a total of 190 pitches. This, as much as anything, raised Gardenhire's ire.
He was asked about three balls left fielder Victor Reyes just missed catching — Cabrera's home run, which was a wall-scraper to left, and two bloop singles by Alonso that he dived, got his glove on, but couldn't catch.
"I would say that's standing out there flat-footed on defense because we're throwing eight thousand pitches," Gardenhire said. "We're putting our outfielders and infielders asleep — that's the way I would put it.
"We always say, if you are throwing it over the plate and keeping your guys in the game, the defense will play well."
Former Tiger Rajai Davis racked up seven total bases with a triple and two doubles and Edwin Encarnacion had a solo home run and an RBI single.
It was way more support than Indians ace Corey Kluber would need. And apparently the Tigers’ offense was exactly the tonic Kluber needed. He had been roughed up in his two previous starts (nine earned runs, 17 hits in 11.1 innings).
The Tigers nicked him in the first — a bunt single by Leonys Martin, double by Niko Goodrum and an RBI groundout by Nick Castellanos. But that was it.
Kluber cruised the rest of the way, allowing five this (three after the first) in 7.1 innings. He’s now 3-0 against the Tigers this season, allowing just three runs total in 23.1 innings.
"He doesn't make it easy for you," Gardenhire said.
Zimmermann was shaking his head afterward about how well the Indians seemed to be reacting to his pitches.
"I looked at the video a number of times and (other than the Cabrera homer and a Michael Brantley triple) every other hit was on pitches three to six inches off the plate," he said. "There's nothing I can do.
"I thought maybe they were leaning out over the plate and looking away the whole day. But then I threw one pitch up and in to Alonso and he pulls it out for a home run. Just very confused how that could happen. If they are all looking out over the plate and looking away, how can he pull his hands in on the first pitch I go up and in with the whole day?"
Zimmermann wondered if maybe he was tipping his pitches, but there may be an easier answer. Because he didn't have a feel for his curveball, he turned himself into a two-pitch pitcher. He threw 34 fastballs with a velocity between 90-92 mph and 31 sliders between 87-88 mph.
If the Indians straight guessed on pitches, they had a 50-50 chance of being right — and with no discernible change of speeds, and with his slider not biting like normal, it wasn't hard to be on either of those pitches.
"With Zimm, it's about controlling bat speed," catcher James McCann said. "You get ahead with fastball-slider, if that's the only thing you've got, the hitter can eliminate the slow pitch.
"Regardless of who you are, if the velocity difference is 5-6 mph, it's easy for a hitter to cover. When you are able to make that third pitch, that slower one, now they've got to cover a 10-15 mph differential and that changes the approach for a hitter."
Gardenhire was right. Best just to forgot this one and move on to the next.