Detroit — Jordan Zimmermann has had a very long season.
Somehow, he’s had an even longer month of July.
“I’m at a loss for words right now,” Zimmermann said following Friday night’s 12-1 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays at Comerica Park.
“I’m not really doing much of anything.”
Detroit’s most expensive pitcher was shelled for six runs over 3.2 innings. And like the 11 starts that preceded it, Zimmermann returned to the clubhouse without a win to his credit, as the Tigers were blown out by the Blue Jays in embarrassing fashion.
“We probably laid one of our worst ballgames of the year,” Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. “Those fans deserve a lot more than what they saw tonight. That was terrible.”
The $25 million man has now given up 20 earned runs over 11 innings in three starts this month, sending his season’s ERA screaming to a career-high 7.51. In Friday night’s loss, Zimmermann (0-7) gave up seven hits, walked four, struck out five and had a mighty difficult time escaping the punishment of Toronto’s leadoff hitters each inning, who were a collective 3-for-4 with a double and three runs scored.
At age 33, Zimmermann is experiencing growing pains that come with trying to “reinvent” himself. Within the last two weeks, in fact, he added a sinker to his repertoire. Early returns from the box score of his last three starts have come back negative, but he’s convinced that time will prove him correct.
“Part of me wishes I had 95 and a wipeout slider again, but I don’t,” Zimmermann said. “I got to keep working on this sinker. It’s going to be a good pitch for me.
“Something with a little more action, little more movement, get some ground balls.”
Catcher John Hicks, who was behind the plate Friday, said that he’s been encouraged by Zimmermann's initiative and believes he’ll eventually find his way.
“I don’t think a lot of people realize how tough that is,” Hicks said. “For a hitter or a pitcher, when you make those adjustments, it’s a tough game. It’s not going to slow down for everyone.”
JaCoby Jones went 3-for-4 with a double and a run scored in his first game since being sidelined with a lower back strain on July 4, Gordon Beckham had a pinch-hit RBI and Jeimer Candelario and Christin Stewart each added two hits for the Tigers (29-64).
Jones said afterward that there were no signs of discomfort in the lower-back injury that forced him to miss 11 games.
Detroit was 0-for-14 with runners in scoring position and left six base runners stranded in the game. Jones scored the Tigers’ only run on a Beckham groundout in the eighth inning. The Blue Jays (37-62), meanwhile, brought their men home at a rampant pace, going 6-for-18 with runners in scoring position and collecting 15 total hits on the night.
Eric Sogard had three hits, two RBIs and a run scored, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. had three hits and three runs scored, and Danny Jansen had three RBIs for Toronto. That was more than enough support for starting pitcher Marcus Stroman (6-10, 3.06 ERA), who threw seven scoreless innings with six hits, no walks and five strikeouts to earn the win.
Despite being the Tigers’ hitter with the most success against Stroman on Friday, Jones was rather complimentary toward his adversary.
“He’s really good at getting your timing off-balance,” Jones said of Stroman. “He does those different kind of moves, whether he has a high leg kick, or he quick steps, just trying to get your timing off.”
Sogard roped a Zimmermann curveball below the zone down the right-field line to start the game, reaching second on a leadoff double and third on a fielder’s choice the following at-bat. Sogard crossed home on a wild pitch with two outs to give the Blue Jays an early 1-0 lead, and Zimmermann retired the side via strikeout in the same at-bat.
Jones led off the first inning with a single to left and was later stranded at second base. He tried taking matters into his own hands after leading off the third inning with a double. Jones tagged up from second on a fly out to the left-field corner with no outs, and was called out after coming off the bag in a bang-bang play at the base.
The second inning wasn’t any easier for Zimmermann. Guerrero led off with another single and later scored from third to make it 2-0, Toronto. Then, after a scoreless third, the Blue Jays jumped out to a 6-0 lead behind a booming fourth inning. Guerrero led off with another single and later scored on a sacrifice fly, Sogard had a two-run single and Freddy Galvis brought home Teoscar Hernandez a batter later.
Zac Reininger gave up a home run to Hernandez and an RBI single to Lourdes Gurriel Jr. in the sixth inning. He was also on the hook for Gurriel’s run, which scored after Victor Alcantara came on in relief and gave the Blue Jays an 11-0 advantage when the inning was all said and done. Reininger finished with four earned runs, three hits, a walk and two strikeouts to his name. Alcantara and Blaine Hardy each gave up an earned run in their respective relief appearances.
Nick Ramirez and All-Star closer Shane Greene held Toronto scoreless in eighth and ninth innings, respectively.
Nolan Bianchi is a freelance writer.