Gardenhire vexed by mental lapses, poor at-bats in 'nowhere' loss
Detroit — The two veteran starting pitchers the Tigers hoped would anchor their rotation — Michael Fulmer and Jordan Zimmermann — have combined to make 47 starts this season. They are 10-20 in those starts personally, while the Tigers are 15-32.
Extreme failure to launch there.
Both had month-long stints on the disabled list. Both showed flashes of top-of-the-rotation form, but no sustained consistency. Both fell well short of their own, and certainly the Tigers’, expectations.
Fulmer’s season is likely over after an MRI Monday showed meniscus damage in his right knee. And Zimmermann did not survive the fourth inning Monday in the Tigers’ 6-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins in the first game of the final home stand of the season at Comerica Park.
"He was really upset tonight," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Just trying to figure out what was going on. Part of it is we haven't been scoring runs. He's healthy and he's been throwing the ball well.
"He's given us a chance most night. Just the last couple have been rough."
Zimmermann gave up a first-inning home run to Eddie Rosario and then was chased after a four-run, five-hit barrage in the fourth.
A lead-off bloop double by Robbie Grossman seemed to unsettle him. He had two strikes on him, but Grossman, batting left-handed, hit one off the end of the bat. The Tigers had the outfield shifted over toward right field and ball dropped right on the foul line.
Nothing good happened after that. Singles by Nick Cave, Logan Forsythe, Ehire Adrianza and Joe Mauer followed. The last batter Zimmermann faced, Jorge Polanco, hit a high bouncer between first and second.
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The ball bounced over first baseman Jim Adduci, but Dawel Lugo was right there. It should have been the third out of the inning, but Zimmermann seemed to slow down and was late covering first.
Gardenhire took the ball from his starter without saying a word, a gesture that spoke volumes.
"I think he was frustrated and so was I," Gardenhire said. "I don't like to see that kind of thing. You still have a job to do when a ball is hit. He just didn't get over there, for whatever reason."
Zimmermann, who threw 78 pitches Monday and didn’t get a single swing-and-miss, owned up to his mistake before he was even being asked about the play.
"The one thing that frustrates me the most was not getting over to cover first," he said. "Throughout my whole career I have prided myself on being a good defender on the mound and doing things the right way.
"For whatever reason, I thought I had plenty of time to get over. I took my time and he beat me to the base. And that really, really frustrates me."
It stings more because of his stature on the team.
"We've got a young team and I am out here trying to teach these guys how to do things the right way and I don't cover first," he said. "It's not a good look."
As upset he was about the fourth inning, he was even more peeved by some of the poor at-bats he witnessed from his young lineup.
The Tigers managed five hits — three of them by Nick Castellanos, who produced his 51st multi-hit game and 18th three-hit game (third in Major League Baseball).
"Those poor at-bats led to exactly what you saw," he said. "Not many hits and a loss that went absolutely nowhere for us. It's disappointing to me and I know it is to Mac (hitting coach Lloyd McClendon). We have to be better than that.
"We have to concentrate better and know situations better."
The at-bat that chafed him the most was Jeimer Candelario's leading off the eighth inning. The Tigers were down 5-1 and he was up in the count 2-0. He got over-aggressive and squibbed a soft ground ball to third base.
"When you are down 5-1 and you're 2-0 leading off an inning and you swing and hit a ball off the end of the bat to third base — that's ridiculous," Gardenhire said. "That's a situation where you need to take a pitch or get one over the plate that you can drive.
"But we're swinging like crazy people. It was just a poor appearance by our offense. And a good pitching by them because they recognized we were swinging."
The Tigers, for the second time this season, got to experience the "opener." The Twins, as the Tampa Bay Rays did against them in July, used a reliever — left-hander Gabriel Moya — to start the game. He pitched a scoreless first and gave way to Kohl Stewart, who is typically a starting pitcher.
The tactic cheated Stewart out of a quality start. He didn’t give up an earned run over six innings, limiting the Tigers to three hits.
The Tigers' lone run was unearned in the fourth. After Castellanos walked, Jim Adduci slapped a single to left. Rosario fielded the ball, but as he spun to throw to third, he slipped and fell to the ground in pain. Castellanos scored and Adduci wound up at third.
Rosario, who was removed from the game, re-aggravated a lingering quad injury.
The Tigers' bullpen worked five scoreless innings. But with two outs in the ninth, Jorge Polanco lined a home run to right off Alex Wilson.
On the pitch before, Polanco hit a towering fly ball over the foul pole. It was ruled foul and the call was confirmed by video review. He made sure he kept the next one between the lines.
"It's part of the game," Gardenhire said. "We just had a bad night tonight. We do things right. We didn't play the game the way we've been playing it."