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Zimmermann OK, but Tigers bullpen clobbered in loss

Associated Press • Sep 22, 2017 at 2:24 AM

DETROIT — This could be the way it goes over the Tigers' final-days calendar.

It has, in fact, been this way for some time now. The steady pitching blowouts. The parade of people to the mound, which would include a pitching coach and a manager who have all but tromped personal pathways from the dugout to the rubber.

And all in a bid to somehow change psyches and scores that 11 times in the past 13 games have gone against the Tigers.

Another night, another defeat Thursday, for the frayed-armed Tigers as the Twins slapped them for 14 hits and 10 walks en route to a 12-1 stomping at Comerica Park.

"We're gonna grind it out," said Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, who ran a seven-pitcher shuttle Thursday that had but a single 1-2-3 inning. "It's tough. But teams are in the (playoff) hunt and we're gonna play 'em straight-up."

The Tigers sank to 62-91 with nine games remaining and are moving ever closer to the Giants and White Sox in owning the worst record among big-league baseball's 30 teams.

They were slowly but smoothly dismantled Thursday by the Twins, who after a few years dwelling in the Central Division's slums are back chasing a wild-card playoff seat.

Tigers pitching not only burned down Thursday, the batting order had issues. The Tigers were good for only six hits. Two of them came from rookie third baseman Jeimer Candelario, who had a double and a single and who drove in Detroit's only run in the third, when his liner down the left-field line scored Jose Iglesias, who had led off with a double against Twins starter Kyle Gibson.

It was such a tough overall evening for the Tigers, Nicholas Castellanos watched his 17-game hitting streak dissolve. He had a deep drive to center in the fifth, with a pair of runners on base, but Byron Buxton easily grabbed it at the warning track's edge.

A shame, for the home crowd anyway, on a night that otherwise would have been right for a fabulous season-changing party.

It was 85 degrees at game time, 20 hours before autumn arrives in Detroit. The air tasted more of July than September.

But the Tigers looked as if they're ready for an offseason break.

Not that the evening began ominously. Jordan Zimmermann made his first start since Sept. 2 and was nicked for only a single through three innings, which included a walk and a pair of strikeouts.

His fastball cruised at 92-93 mph. He had a good curveball early and later got a handle on his slider.

But in the fourth, the Twins popped him for three singles and a double that put them on top, 3-0.

Zimmermann finished the fourth but was excused after he had thrown 69 pitches. The neck ills that shelved him most of the past three weeks seemed not, from afar, to be a hassle.

And they weren't.

"Yeah, probably the best location and velocity I've had in two years," said the right-handed starter who hasn't been healthy for more than a few weeks in 18 months. "I had a lot of quality pitches.

"I felt great. The ball was really easy coming out of my hand."

Zimmermann was almost as pleased with how he threw the ball in the Twins' fourth when they scored three times on singles by Joe Mauer, Jorge Polanco, and Byron Buxton, wrapped around Eduardo Escobar's double.

"Jam-job to Mauer, then an 0-2 sinker below the zone for a double, then Bush gets a hit up the middle on a pitch on the corner, off the end of the bat, where I wanted it," Zimmermann said.

"And that pretty well summarized my evening."

No quibbles from Ausmus, who decided after the fourth that a pitcher who hadn't thrown in a game in nearly three weeks was spent.

"I thought he was getting tired a little bit," Ausmus aid. "I didn't want to push it."

The Tigers bullpen had a rougher time.

Warwick Saupold: one-third of an inning, one run, one hit, two walks.

Victor Alcantara: one inning, three runs, three hits, one walk.

Myles Jaye: 1 2/3 innings, five runs, three hits, four walks.

Other, less painful stints were pitched by Blaine Hardy, Zac Reininger, and Jairo Labourt, who walked two.

But the seven-pitcher caravan spoke to a worn-out staff, missing too many formerly stalwart pieces (Justin Verlander traded, Michael Fulmer recovering from surgery), and still in need of completing nine more games before everyone can go home.

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