Zimmerman looks for first win as Tigers battle Blue Jays

Field Level Media

Jordan Zimmermann hasn't won a game since last September. At this point, he'd probably settle for a quality outing.

Things have gone from bad to worse for the Detroit Tigers right-hander, who missed nearly two months with an elbow injury. In his last two starts, he gave up a combined 14 runs on 21 hits in 7 1/3 innings, ballooning his season ERA in 7.01 ERA.

Easily the highest paid pitcher on the staff, Zimmermann (0-6) will try to rectify his problems when he starts the opener of a three-game home series against Toronto on Friday.

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"I have to do something to get my confidence back," he told the Detroit News. "It's probably at an all-time low right now."

How bad has Zimmermann been? He has a 9.23 ERA over his last nine starts and opponents are hitting .363 during that stretch.

"It's just about getting out there, getting a decent start under my belt, instead of getting punched in the face every time out," he said to the News. "I just need to put a good start together and build off of that."

Zimmermann isn't a hard thrower, so he needs his breaking pitches to be effective. However, his slider hasn't been working, leading to a lot of hard-hit balls.

On a stronger team, Zimmermann would probably have lost his rotation spot. But the pitching-strapped Tigers have little choice but to run him out there every fifth game. They don't want to rush any of their promising pitching prospects in the minors.

Zimmermann is 2-1 with a 2.51 ERA in five career starts against the Blue Jays.

Toronto's scheduled starter, Marcus Stroman (5-10), has been effective recently and that's why he's on the trading block.

Stroman has lasted at least six innings in four of his last five starts and hasn't given up more than three earned runs during that stretch. He's also held opponents to three or fewer earned runs in 10 of his last 11 starts, which is why he ranks in the American League's top 10 in ERA (3.25).

Stroman dominated the Tigers in his first start this season, holding them scoreless and giving up just two hits in seven innings. He is 1-1 with a 2.17 ERA in four career outings against Detroit.

Stroman believes he'll remain effective the rest of the way, whether he's pitching for the Blue Jays or a contender.

"I feel like I'm a good fit in this era," Stroman told MLB.com. "As far as launch angle and guys putting the ball in the air, my sinker plays incredibly well to keeping the ball on the ground and limiting homers. And I'm not just a sinker baller. I have a great cutter, my four-seam's coming back, I have a great slider. I have plenty of weapons."

He also notes that he tends to pick up steam as the season goes along.

"I truly believe that I always get stronger as the year goes on," Stroman said. "I've always been a second-half pitcher. I think I'm going to have a pretty special second half. My body feels great, my arm feels great. ... I'm going to get stronger as the year goes on."

--Field Level Media

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