Another sour outing for Tigers' Jordan Zimmermann: 'I'm not going to quit'

Chris Nelsen
Special to the Detroit Free Press

Detroit Tigers fans realize Jordan Zimmermann is unlikely to be a front-line starter again in the big leagues.

But the organization is counting on him to eat innings while its prized pitching prospects — a group highlighted by last year’s No. 1 overall pick, Casey Mize — develop in the minors. 

Zimmermann, who was signed to a five-year, $110 million contract by general manager Al Avila in 2015, said his performance needs to improve moving forward.

The veteran right-hander had another short outing Wednesday afternoon at Comerica Park. He lasted 4⅓ innings as the Tigers fell to the Philadelphia Phillies, 4-0, and were swept in the two-game series.

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Zimmermann (0-8, 7.57 ERA) allowed four earned runs on eight hits and a walk. He was seeking his first win since beating the Chicago White Sox on Sept. 5, 2018 — now a span of 17 starts.

“Obviously, you want results,” said Zimmermann, who was replaced by Jose Cisnero in the fifth inning with the Phillies holding a 4-0 lead after Rhys Hoskins’ RBI single. “I make two different pitches and it’s a whole different ball game, and I’m still out there in the sixth inning.

“Just the way it’s been going for me. I get in some good counts where I want to be, I make the pitch I want to make, and they’re hitting it through the hole. I’m not going to quit. I’m going to keep grinding.”

Zimmermann, who said recently he’s working on some new pitches, including a sinker, had a fairly quick opening three innings, allowing two singles and a triple.

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J.T. Realmuto’s solo homer to left made it 1-0 in the fourth. Nick Williams blasted a 435-foot home run to lead off the fifth, followed by Roman Quinn’s bunt single and Cesar Hernandez’s RBI double, making it 3-0.

Zimmermann awkwardly slipped while tying to field Quinn’s bunt, and stayed on the ground for a moment. He was not injured on the play.

“The first four innings were good,” Zimmermann said. “The fifth inning came around and Williams hit that home run on the slider, and then the bunt right to me and I lost my footing. It just happened real quick.

“Overall, I felt like I was in command most of the day and executed a lot of good pitches. Bobby (Wilson) and myself were on the same page. We were rolling out there, the fifth inning came around, and all of a sudden, boom, boom, boom, and I’m out of the game.”

Jordan Zimmermann sits in the dugout after being pulled from the game during the fifth inning Wednesday.

Wilson, who started at catcher as John Hicks rested, said he liked most of Zimmermann’s 95 pitches, 59 of which were thrown for strikes. 

“In that fifth inning, it’s a bunt he slips on, it’s a throw that gets away from first,” Wilson said. “Overall, I thought he threw the ball pretty well. The slipping and falling down, there’s two outs right there. He made a good pitch to Williams, and Williams put a good swing on it.”

The Tigers bullpen again did a nice job after allowing just one run over nine innings in Tuesday night’s 3-2, 15-inning loss to the Phillies. Gregory Soto pitched three scoreless innings and worked out of a jam in the top of the ninth, recording a strikeout and fly out with runners on second and third.

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But the offense had five hits, leaving nine on base against Phillies starter Vince Velasquez (3-5) and their bullpen. Philadelphia’s Hector Neris struck out the side in the bottom of the ninth.

“It’s very difficult. You play to win the game,” said Wilson, who went 0-for-2 with a walk and is now batting .098 this season. “We’re not here just to collect checks. You’re playing for the city of Detroit, but also, you don’t want to embarrass the name on the back of your jersey.”

The offense did little to help Zimmermann and the bullpen, squandering a couple opportunities to put runs on the board. 

With two outs in the second inning, Christin Stewart singled, Niko Goodrum doubled and Wilson walked to load the bases. But Gordon Beckham struck out swinging to end the threat.

Gordon Beckham reacts after striking out with the bases loaded during the second inning.

In the sixth and eighth innings, the Tigers put two runners on base. Brandon Dixon finished with two hits and a walk.

They were shut out in 18 consecutive innings by the Phillies, dating to Tuesday's sixth inning when Nicholas Castellanos hit a tying RBI double.

“It’s a round ball, a round bat — this is a tough game in itself,” Goodrum said. “You try to focus on getting good pitches, but it didn’t happen today. I guess they made pitches, and we didn’t make the contact.”

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