Detroit — Jordan Zimmermann was almost out of the woods.
Not in the sense that he was on the verge of turning around a very forgettable season, or even in the context of his five-year, $110 million contract he signed with the Tigers. That doesn’t expire until after next season, where he’ll again be set to earn $25 million for services rendered in a Tigers uniform.
No, both of those occurrences seemed pretty far off even before the Chicago White Sox came to town on Friday night. For Zimmermann, though, Friday’s start was the first of two he’d have to make before officially closing the chapter of what’s turned out to be the worst of his career. Almost there.
"It didn't matter what I threw out there tonight," Zimmermann said. "It was either going to get hit hard or find a hole."
The White Sox hung up nine earned runs on Zimmermann (1-12, 6.85 ERA), the most in any of the 272 starts during his 11-year major-league career, en route to a 10-1 win over the Tigers at Comerica Park.
Zimmermann lasted 3.2 innings, also giving up nine hits and striking out six. Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said that Zimmermann did a poor job of keeping Chicago's hitters guessing from the start.
"It looked like he was basically pitching to one side of the plate all night," Gardenhrie said. "Away, away, away, away, or, in, in, in, in. You've got to mix it up, you've got to go both ways, you've got to keep them off-balance."
The biggest mistake of Zimmermann's night came in the fourth inning. After allowing Daniel Palka to reach and score after a leadoff single, the White Sox loaded the bases. Two pitches in, a fastball missed the zone and was sent for a grand slam by Eloy Jimenez to give Chicago a 9-1 lead.
"I was trying to go fastball up and in," Zimmermann said. "I kind of pulled it a bit and it was a fastball up and away, which, it was probably a ball. But a big, strong kid like that, all he's got to do is get the barrel on it."
The loss kicked off a six-game homestand for Detroit, its last of the season, and was the first of seven meetings between the Tigers and White Sox (67-86) through Sept. 29.
Miguel Cabrera had an RBI and Travis Demeritte scored the lone run for Detroit (45-108). The Tigers mustered just seven hits, left six on base, were 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position and committed three defense errors.
Jimenez was 3-for-5 with the grand slam and two runs scored, Yoan Moncada had a two-run home run, and Yolmer Sanchez went 4-for-6 with two RBIs and a run scored for Chicago, who racked up 19 hits as a team. Dylan Cease gave up an earned run and five hits and struck out eight to earn the win.
While a majority of the blame for Friday's nine-run loss can be handed to Detroit's starting pitcher, the defense also didn't play very well behind him, either. The Tigers committed three defensive errors, the ugliest of which came in the third inning.
Ronny Rodriguez fielded Jose Abreu's leadoff bouncer at third and threw the ball away. John Hicks corralled the loose ball, fired to second, and sailed the ball into the outfield. Two pitches later, Moncada hit his 24th home run of the season.
"That wasn't very professional," Gardenhire said. "I don't get it, I don't understand it, but I guess we have to live with it."
Zimmermann got through a scoreless first inning before being tagged for multiple runs in the second, third and fourth. Jimenez opened the floodgates and ended Zimmermann’s night with the grand slam in the fourth, the second grand slam for Chicago’s star rookie in an 11-day span.
Jimenez also scored Chicago’s first run of the game and extended his hitting streak to 11 games, leading off the second inning with a triple before scoring on a double by Zack Collins, who scored later in the inning to give the White Sox a 2-0 lead.
Detroit stranded runners at the corners after Christin Stewart led off the second inning for the Tigers with a double off Cease (4-7, 5.79 ERA).
Afterward, Gardenhire tipped his cap to Cease and former Tigers catcher James McCann.
"He spun the ball good, his fastball is 97 miles an hour," Gardenhire said. "I think the guy behind the plate knows a lot of our guys too, so he called a pretty good game."
The Tigers mustered their only offense in the third with an RBI single by Cabrera to cut the deficit to 4-1. The comeback wasn’t on for long, though.
Adam Engel doubled home McCann in the seventh to give the White Sox a double-digit run total.
Nick Ramirez, John Schreiber, Zac Reininger and Jose Cisnero each threw an inning or more of scoreless relief. Left-hander Gregory Soto gave up an earned run in the seventh.
Nolan Bianchi is a freelance writer.