Detroit — While the Tigers hitters were facing a lefty starter for the first time this season, pitcher Jordan Zimmermann said he was up against his own tough foe.
That was home plate umpire Todd Tichenor, who ejected Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire in the fifth inning, and then told Zimmermann that he could be next.
“He had a bad night,” Zimmermann said.
Meanwhile, Carlos Rodon had a good one, striking out six and allowing one run in six innings to lead the Chicago White Sox past the Tigers, 7-3, on a rainy night at Comerica Park.
The Tigers had three solo home runs: Grayson Greiner’s first as a major leaguer, Josh Harrison’s first with Detroit, and Niko Goodrum ninth-inning blast that closed the scoring.
Bench coach Steve Liddle, who took over after Gardenhire’s 78th career ejection, said in his 14 seasons he has not seen a team go 19 games without seeing a lefty starter.
“Our left-handed batting practice pitcher had to get the mothballs out of his jersey,” Liddle said. “It’s good for us to get out there and finally see a lefty because we’ll probably see a couple in Boston (next) week.”
The Tigers fell to 9-10, suffering their sixth loss in seven games and fifth in six night games this season.
Zimmermann said Tichenor was not giving him either corner of the plate, which the right-hander said played a part in his season-high four-walk night, one short of his career high.
“I’m going to live on the corner,” said Zimmermann, who took his third straight loss. “After the fifth inning, when Gardy got tossed and I came out, I was walking off and I said, ‘You have to give me the outside corner or the inside corner. It’s got to be one or the other or else I’m not going to be in this game long.’
“He got really defensive and took a step on me and said, ‘You want to go, too?’ And I said, ‘No, not really,’ so I just walked off. So I don’t know.
“He was having a bad day and I guess every umpire can have those from time to time, but it was tough to be out there and you’re throwing some good pitches and thinking they’re strikes and he balls you.”
The right-hander walked in a run in the fifth inning, with the ball call on Yoan Moncada leading to Gardenhire’s ejection from the dugout.
Zimmermann again got in trouble in the seventh, walking Ryan Cordell to lead off a five-run frame.
Cordell then stole the first base of his 26-game MLB career and took third on a Yolmer Sanchez single. After Sanchez stole second, Leury Garcia plated both with a single, ending Zimmermann’s night.
Reliever Daniel Stumpf then allowed three hard hits to his three batters, as the White Sox made it 7-1 on a two-run double by Jose Abreu and a Yonder Alonzo RBI double.
While Nick Castellanos, Miguel Cabrera and Jeimer Candelario are all still homerless in 203 combined at-bats, Greiner’s first homer came on his 149th career at-bat, going into the Tigers bullpen to make it 7-2 in the seventh.
“I would trade the homer for a win,” Greiner said. “But it’s what you always dream about, hitting a home run on a major league field. It was as cool as I always dreamed about.”
Greiner said he didn’t yet have possession of the ball but hoped a teammate got a hold of it.
In the third inning, Harrison hit a home run to left-center.
Harrison was hit by a pitch on his left hand on Thursday but responded without time off. He had broken that hand in each of the last two seasons but called the trainers Friday before the game to tell them he was OK.
Zimmermann surrendered a straightaway home run to Moncada in the first, measuring 458 feet, according to Statcast.
Chicago catcher James McCann, playing his first game against the Tigers after spending his first five seasons in Detroit, had a base hit in four at-bats.
Reliever Joe Jimenez provided a bright spot for the Tigers with a perfect eighth inning in driving rain. Last season’s All-Star faced three batters without recording an out Wednesday, and Gardenhire said he would pitch him in lower leverage situations until he regains form.
“It was really good to see him go out there, in the meat of the order and then shut them down,” Liddle said. “It was a bitter night tonight. It’s cold and rainy there at the end and the guys kept battling. It’s a positive sign.”
The teams will play a pair of 1:10 p.m. games this weekend to round out the four-game set.
Matt Schoch is a freelance writer.