If you had told someone two years ago that a Jordan Zimmermann-Jason Vargas matchup would feature an All-Star who leads the American League in wins, most would assume that the Detroit Tigers had struck gold on yet another big money free agent signing. While Vargas is the actual All-Star — yes, he was 12-3 with a 2.62 ERA at the break — Zimmermann looked the part on Monday evening. He struck out seven in 6 2⁄3 innings to earn his sixth win of the season as the Tigers trounced the Kansas City Royals, 10-2.
Zimmermann got a lot of help from a Tigers offense that was happy to contribute runs early in the game. Detroit took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first when Victor Martinez drew a bases loaded walk with two outs, but they nearly didn’t get there. With runners on first and third earlier in the game, Justin Upton hit a sharp grounder back to Vargas. Ian Kinsler intentionally got into a rundown at third, a heads-up play that prevented an inning ending double play. After an intentional walk to J.D. Martinez, Victor drew the unintentional free pass to score Nick Castellanos.
After a quick first inning from Zimmermann, the Tigers added three more runs in the second. Kinsler tripled home Alex Avila to make it 2-0, and then scored on a massive home run from Castellanos. Mikie Mahtook made it 6-0 with a no-doubt two-run homer of his own in the third, and Victor Martinez drove in another run in the fourth to push the lead to seven.
Zimmermann took it from there. He threw 79 of his 97 pitches for strikes, yet was still able to keep an aggressive Royals lineup off balance with a heavy dose of breaking balls. He struck out seven in 6 2⁄3 innings, and did not concede a run until the Tigers were up 8-0 in the seventh.
If anything, the most exciting part of the middle innings was the prospect of a trade. J.D. Martinez left the game with what ultimately turned out to be lower back tightness, but fans assumed (hoped?) for more. Those following closely were also aware that Washington Nationals prospect Victor Robles had been taken out of a minor league game, leading to a few frantic minutes of rampant speculation. Of course, it turned out to be nothing; Robles was removed from his game for a base running blunder.
Jordan Zimmermann: It wasn’t always pretty (as seems to be the case in most of Zimmermann’s starts) but it was effective. Zimmermann held the Royals to just one run in 6 2⁄3 innings while striking out seven.
Ian Kinsler: He mashed his way to a double and two triples in his first three at-bats, and had the aforementioned base running savvy to preserve a first inning rally. The cycle didn’t happen, but that’s about the only bad thing I can say about this performance.
Mikie Mahtook: Three hits, including a massive home run to left? Yup, that’s a roar. Mahtook is now hitting .276 this season (just don’t look at his on-base percentage).
Warwick Saupold: He faced four batters and retired only one, allowing a home run to Eric Hosmer in the process. Not good, mate.
Tigers relievers past and present: Not only did Saupold struggle, but former Tigers reliever Neftali Feliz gave up a pair of runs in the ninth. Al Alburquerque threw a scoreless eighth for the Royals, though.