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Rays 3, Tigers 2: Jordan Zimmermann was great, Shane Greene not so much

Zimmermann finally pitched well, but the Tigers lost anyway.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Detroit Tigers Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Tigers and Rays spent eight innings locked in a scoreless tie as starters Jordan Zimmermann and Jake Faria played the roles of dueling aces, before packing all the action into the ninth inning. Shane Greene served up two home runs to give the Rays a three-run lead, but the Tigers’ bats stormed back to score a pair in the bottom of the ninth. They ultimately fell a run short, however, and dropped to 11-16 on the season.

Zimmermann had his best outing since August 2nd, 2017, allowing only two singles and a walk across seven innings. He threw 58 of his 93 pitches for strikes, and mixed in a healthy dose of off-speed and breaking balls to complement the fastball.

Perhaps the most troubling member of the Tigers’ roster, Zimmermann has fallen far short of expectations since signing with the Tigers during the winter prior to the 2016 season. He was worth only 2.4 fWAR in his first two seasons with the Tigers and is still owed upwards of $70 million through 2020.

Zimmermann has dealt with a chronic neck injury and a general lack of command and consistency since that contract was signed. He entered the game with a 7.91 ERA through five starts this season, despite some encouraging signs in his peripherals. In our preview, we identified Zimmermann’s ability to limit the damage as the key to tonight’s matchup.

Boy, did he limit the damage.

The outing wasn’t without a few lapses in command or a few hard-hit balls, however. In the early innings especially, Zimmermann hung a few sliders and induced some hard contact that fortunately found Tigers’ leather. In the third, Jose Iglesias was able to snag two such balls with some impressive glovework. The first was hit over Iglesias’ head and required a well-timed leap to keep from reaching the outfield grass. The second was a spectacular diving catch on a rocket to his right.

To add to the highlight reel the next half-inning, Iglesias squeezed a line drive down the right field line that a fan attempted to catch. The interference held Iglesias to a double, though he likely would have had a stand-up triple had the ball been allowed to bounce into the corner. Had Iglesias ended up on third, he may have scored on Victor Reyes’ slow roller to second base

Zimmermann eventually settled into a groove that one might be tempted to call promising. His slider showed life and he was able to hit his spots, for the most part. He even began to mix in a diet of changeups to good effect, a pitch he usually reserves as a rare show-me pitch. It was only one outing, but for a fanbase desperate for hope, it was great to see.

Unfortunately, Rays’ starter Jake Faria matched Zimmermann nearly pitch-for-pitch, working eight shutout innings of his own, allowing only the double to Iglesias, a double to Nicholas Castellanos, and a single to JaCoby Jones.

After Daniel Stumpf managed a clean eighth, the Tigers handed the ball to Shane Greene in the scoreless tie. That’s when all hell broke loose. Greene walked Denard Span and fell behind C.J. Cron 2-0 before Cron deposited a fastball deep into the seats in right-center field. Two batters later, Brad Miller added an insurance run by going deep to left center.

The Tigers’ weren’t ready to roll over just yet, though. The bats had been quiet all night, but they managed to load the bases with a single and two hit batsmen off reliever Chaz Roe. Flamethrower Jose Alvarado came on to escape the jam and promptly gave up a two-run single to Victor Martinez. Unfortunately, that was as far as the comeback would go, as the Tigers stranded the winning run on first base.


Who was the Tigers’ player of the game?

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    Jordan Zimmermann
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