Zimmermann, Tigers look to upend red-hot White Sox

DETROIT — Jordan Zimmermann enjoyed a sparkling first month in his first season with the Detroit Tigers.

Zimmermann’s second April with the club hasn’t gone as well, but getting through it in good health gives him reason for optimism.

The veteran right-hander won his first five starts in 2016 after being signed to a five-year, $110 million contract as a free agent. That earned him the American League Pitcher of the Month award but the remainder of his season was marred by groin and neck injuries. He finished the season with a 9-7 record and 4.87 ERA.

Zimmermann has been able to take the mound every fifth day this month but his pitches haven’t missed a lot of bats. He’s given up five runs in each of his last three starts, though good run support has helped him to a 2-1 record (although with a 6.35 ERA) entering his start against the visiting Chicago White Sox (13-9) on Sunday afternoon.

“Obviously, it’s a little more difficult right now. It’s been so long since I’ve been healthy and felt good that it’s hard to remember what it felt like to be healthy and what’s normal,” Zimmermann said on Saturday. “Just going out there and getting more and more innings under my belt, it’s just going to get better and better. Obviously, I had a big layoff, so just trying to get back in a groove and get the feel for things. I’m giving up a lot of runs but I’m also going six innings for the most part.”

Zimmerman lasted six innings and allowed three home runs in his last start on Tuesday against Seattle, but the Tigers (11-12) scored a season-high in runs and rolled to a 19-9 win. He has a 3-1 record and 4.45 ERA in five career outings against the White Sox.

“The main thing is staying healthy and tweaking a few things along the way to get to a place where I feel comfortable every pitch with the same motion, the same everything,” he said. “Basically repeating everything. I think that’s what I’m a little off with right now. I feel good one pitch and the next pitch doesn’t come out the way I’d like it to. So it’s all about repetition and getting the same mechanics, and that will come in time.”

Unlike Zimmermann, White Sox starter Miguel Gonzalez has been lights out this season. He’s 3-0 with a 2.00 ERA, including a dominant performance against Kansas City on Monday. He held the Royals to one unearned run on two hits over eight innings.

“He’s just attacking the zone,” Chicago manager Rick Renteria said. “His first pitch strikes have gone up over the last two or three starts. He’s been commanding his secondary pitches very well. He’s been the guy that’s been able to use both sides of the plate very effectively and he’s keeping the ball down.”

Gonzalez is building off a strong finish to last season. He has a 2.54 ERA over his last 17 starts. He hasn’t had much success against the Tigers over the years, posting a 2-4 record and 7.43 ERA in 10 career appearances.

The White Sox captured the first two contests of the three-game series to extend their winning streak to six games. They blew a two-run lead in the ninth on Saturday, then scored twice in the 10th with the aid of Melky Cabrera’s leadoff homer to pull out a 6-4 victory.

“Whenever you give up a big inning to the other team, you want to jump back in the dugout and get it going again,” closer David Robertson said. “Melky did a great job and the whole offense had some great at-bats. It was a big, strong, win for us.”