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Zim labors as Tigers can't slow Tribe in finale

Righty burned by homers, lacks curveball in short outing
MLB.com @beckjason

DETROIT -- Corey Kluber delivered a reminder to the Tigers that he's still Corey Kluber. Jordan Zimmermann delivered a reminder of his 2016-17 struggles. Francisco Liriano delivered a demonstration to scouts that he's healthy and still a viable trade target.

Once the Indians roughed up Zimmermann for five runs in three innings, the Tigers' 8-1 loss in the rubber game on Sunday afternoon at Comerica Park became a game of individual performances as Tuesday's non-waiver Trade Deadline nears. Liriano, who was scratched from his scheduled start on Saturday following a severe allergic reaction, made his first relief appearance -- and perhaps his last outing with Detroit.

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DETROIT -- Corey Kluber delivered a reminder to the Tigers that he's still Corey Kluber. Jordan Zimmermann delivered a reminder of his 2016-17 struggles. Francisco Liriano delivered a demonstration to scouts that he's healthy and still a viable trade target.

Once the Indians roughed up Zimmermann for five runs in three innings, the Tigers' 8-1 loss in the rubber game on Sunday afternoon at Comerica Park became a game of individual performances as Tuesday's non-waiver Trade Deadline nears. Liriano, who was scratched from his scheduled start on Saturday following a severe allergic reaction, made his first relief appearance -- and perhaps his last outing with Detroit.

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Liriano logged two scoreless innings, helped by Nicholas Castellanos' throw home to retire Edwin Encarnacion at the plate. But with the Phillies and Cubs represented among a handful of scouts on hand, Liriano's outing could double as a showcase to demonstrate he's healthy. Though Liriano has been a starter all season, a successful relief outing doesn't hurt his chances to land with a contender, with so many teams seeking lefty relief for a postseason run.

Video: CLE@DET: Liriano gets Gomes swinging in the 4th

"We wanted him to go three [innings], but after two, he was gassed a little bit," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He wanted to pitch. We got him two innings. If he would've felt a little better, maybe we would have just run him back out there, but that wasn't the case."

Zimmermann (4-3) hasn't been a trade candidate, mainly due to his contract, but his recent return to his younger form raised hopes that he could eventually be of interest to other teams, or become a veteran innings-eater amidst the youth movement coming in Detroit's rotation. But Sunday marked his third consecutive non-quality start, and his second straight struggle since undergoing a nerve block injection in his back over the All-Star break.

His summer success coincided with the return of his curveball as a viable pitch, but Zimmermann hasn't had it in his last few starts. He threw fastballs or sliders with 68 of his 80 pitches on Sunday, with about a five-mph different in velocity, and Indians hitters fouled off enough pitches to stay alive in counts and punish him when they guessed right. Melky Cabrera's second-inning solo homer, Francisco Lindor's RBI single and Yonder Alonso's third-inning two-run homer provided the bulk of the damage.

"To be honest, I thought I had pretty good stuff," Zimmermann said. "Obviously the curveball wasn't there, but I was locating the fastball, other than the home run Melky hit."

When Zimmermann's curveball is working, it looks like a fastball when he releases it, giving hitters less time to react to the break. The curveball he has thrown in his last two starts, catcher James McCann said, has looked different.

"That's really where a lot of success came from early in the year, being able to slow guys down and control their bat speeds with that curveball," McCann said. "The last couple outings, we haven't had the same curveball that we have had in the past. It changes your game plan a little bit."

Zimmermann yielded five runs on six hits over three innings, and has surrendered 13 runs on 24 hits over 14 2/3 innings in his past three starts, including six home runs. He fell to 0-5 with an 11.08 ERA in six career starts against Cleveland.

Video: CLE@DET: Castellanos plates Martin on a groundout

Kluber (13-6) entered the day having posted a 6.23 ERA over his previous five starts, but the Tigers were a welcome candidate for his bounceback. Though Leonys Martin's leadoff bunt single and run scored marked Detroit's first opening-inning run off Kluber in six starts, the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner held the Tigers to three hits over 7 1/3 scoreless innings from there. He has given up four earned runs over 40 1/3 innings in his last five meetings with Detroit.

"He got some pitches on the outer half, and he was bringing the ball back over the plate, which is a really good pitch for him," Gardenhire said. "He went to the slider a lot, and that got us off the fastball. We were trying to ambush him early, get him early in the count. He recognized that. That's what a good pitcher does."

MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Lindor torments counterpart: The Tigers are used to seeing Francisco Lindor doing great things against them, but he put up back-to-back standout plays against fellow shortstop Jose Iglesias. First, Lindor went to the infield dirt for a highlight stop and flip to second to deny Iglesias a second-inning single on a grounder with a 102.7 mph exit velocity, according to Statcast™. When Iglesias then tried to steal second base, Lindor deftly fielded the throw on the first-base side of the bag and slapped down a quick tag as Iglesias slid by.

Video: CLE@DET: Lindor gets forceout on a superb diving play

SOUND SMART
Iglesias' fifth-inning double was his 25th, marking his third consecutive season with at least 25 doubles. He's the second Tigers shortstop in the Comerica Park era (since 2000) to put up three straight seasons with at least that many doubles, joining Jhonny Peralta (2011-13). Though Carlos Guillen had a similar streak from 2006-08, he was a corner infielder in '08.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
If the Tigers trade Iglesias by Tuesday's Deadline, he'll have given Tigers fans one more acrobatic play as a parting gift. The slick-fielding shortstop ranged deep into the hole and launched a strong throw from near left field to rob Yan Gomes of a sixth-inning single.

Video: CLE@DET: Iglesias makes a long throw to retire Gomes

HE SAID IT
"Let's just throw this game out and get on to the next one. Let's have a day off tomorrow." -- Gardenhire

UP NEXT
After an off-day on Monday, the Tigers return to action at 7:10 p.m. ET on Tuesday as Matthew Boyd (4-9, 4.53 ERA) starts the opener of a two-game Interleague series against the Reds at Comerica Park. Boyd will get a chance to avenge Joey Votto's short-porch grand slam that sent the lefty to defeat last month in Cincinnati. Righty Homer Bailey (1-7, 6.29 ERA) will start for the Reds.

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

Detroit Tigers, Jordan Zimmermann