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Zimmermann fans 11 in masterful start vs. Texas

Veteran wields dominant slider in 8 innings; McCann, Jones go deep
MLB.com @beckjason

DETROIT -- Bartolo Colon continues to outpitch Father Time at age 45, but he wasn't the best comeback story on the mound Friday night at Comerica Park.

Jordan Zimmermann is 13 years younger, but neck and shoulder issues have left him feeling older than that the last couple years. As he flipped curveballs, spun sliders and mixed in fastballs against a perplexed Rangers lineup for eight innings of one-run ball, he looked like the frontline workhorse the Tigers jumped the free-agent market to sign a few years ago.

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DETROIT -- Bartolo Colon continues to outpitch Father Time at age 45, but he wasn't the best comeback story on the mound Friday night at Comerica Park.

Jordan Zimmermann is 13 years younger, but neck and shoulder issues have left him feeling older than that the last couple years. As he flipped curveballs, spun sliders and mixed in fastballs against a perplexed Rangers lineup for eight innings of one-run ball, he looked like the frontline workhorse the Tigers jumped the free-agent market to sign a few years ago.

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"That's why we brought him over here," Nicholas Castellanos said. "That's the guy he was in Washington at the start of his career."

Together, Colon and Zimmermann put on an unlikely pitching duel that lasted eight innings apiece but flew by. The sky still had some brightness when Joe Jimenez retired Adrian Beltre to complete the Tigers' 3-1 win, leaving fans in wait for the postgame fireworks show.

Video: TEX@DET: Jimenez records the save in the Tigers' win

It was a fitting backdrop, after two veteran pitchers made the case that the sun hasn't set on their careers yet.

"I've locked horns with him a few times over the years," Zimmermann said. "It's usually a pretty quick game. He works fast. I work fast. And here we are, out of here in two hours and some minutes."

The game lasted two hours and five minutes, a feather in the cap for pace of play on a night when MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred was at the game. But they weren't just pitching quickly. With no walks, 11 strikeouts and four hits allowed, Zimmermann delivered one of his best games as a Tiger.

"That was impressive," Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Both of them threw the ball very, very well, and they were going at each other pretty good, throwing it over, moving the ball all over the place."

Video: TEX@DET: Gardenhire on 3-1 win over the Rangers

While Colon was trying to pass Dennis Martinez to become the winningest Latin America-born pitcher in Major League history, Zimmermann (4-0) was trying to continue his recent resurgence since his return from a shoulder impingement. Shin-Soo Choo's home run to straightaway center on the second pitch of the night didn't look encouraging for that, but Zimmermann allowed just three singles the rest of the way.

For that matter, Zimmermann limited the Rangers' chances to even put the ball in play. Next time up, Choo took three called strikes off three different pitches -- a changeup, slider, then the curve -- to strike out ending the third. Delino DeShields fanned on a slider to strand a runner on second in the fifth, the last baserunner the Rangers recorded against Zimmermann before he retired them in order the third time through with five strikeouts.

"My slider was probably the best it's been, maybe in my whole career," Zimmermann said. "It was really, really good tonight. I rarely missed with it."

More importantly, the Rangers couldn't recognize it, which is why they looked like they were guessing at times.

"He has the same arm speed, same arm action," Ryan Rua said. "It comes out like a fastball and just dives away. He's living with the fastball away and spotting it up, so it looks like the same pitch, and then it breaks out of the zone."

Zimmermann enticed seven swing-and-misses and six called strikes on 32 sliders. He drew five more swinging strikes and eight calls off 23 curveballs, a pitch that has become increasingly important for him since his return.

"I feel like when the curveball's good, it keeps them off the slider and the fastball," Zimmermann said. "When I'm out there and I have the curveball and slider both working, it's usually a really, really good night."

This was more than a good night. With two runs allowed in 20 innings with 20 strikeouts over his last three starts, Zimmermann is enjoying his best stretch since April of 2016, his first month as a Tiger, before the neck issues settled in. When asked if the old Jordan Zimmermann is back, Gardenhire corrected.

"I don't think he ever left," Gardenhire said. "I think it's all about health. When he's healthy, he can do those things."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
McCann goes deep: While Zimmermann kept the Rangers quiet offensively after Choo's homer, the Tigers still needed runs off Colon (5-6). James McCann provided them with his first home run since May 28, a two-run homer off a fastball over the plate with one out in the second inning. He had gone 9-for-67 with 18 strikeouts since his last home run.

Video: TEX@DET: McCann belts a 2-run homer in the 2nd

SOUND SMART
Colon and Zimmermann became the first opposing starters to both go at least eight innings with no walks in the same game since April 27, 2017, when Chris Sale and Masahiro Tanaka did it in the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry.

HE SAID IT
"I just turned my back to the guys for a while, and [pitching coach Rick Anderson] said, 'Hey, you want to turn around and look at me or not?'" -- Zimmermann, on whether he lobbied to stay in the game for the ninth inning

UP NEXT
Mike Fiers (5-5, 3.79 ERA) will try to mess with Texas and beat the Rangers for the second time this season as the series continues Saturday with a 4:10 p.m. ET start at Comerica Park. Fiers, who has given up two runs in 15 innings over his last two outings, will try to outpitch Rangers starter Cole Hamels (4-7, 4.05 ERA).

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

Detroit Tigers, Brian McCann, Jordan Zimmermann