DETROIT -- Michael Kopech and Jordan Zimmermann took the mound against each other Sunday at Comerica Park at opposing ends of their careers, but with similar things to prove. While Kopech showed the stuff for a promising big league tenure with six innings of one-run ball for his first Major
DETROIT -- Michael Kopech and Jordan Zimmermann took the mound against each other Sunday at Comerica Park at opposing ends of their careers, but with similar things to prove. While Kopech showed the stuff for a promising big league tenure with six innings of one-run ball for his first Major League win, Zimmermann fell back into the second-half struggles that have spoiled what had the makings of a career revival, sending the Tigers to a 7-2 loss to the White Sox.
The Tigers, who honored Hall of Famer Alan Trammell before the game by officially retiring his No. 3, lost three straight to the White Sox this weekend after winning Thursday's series opener. Detroit went 2-4 on its all-Chicago homestand, having split a two-game midweek set against the Cubs.
Sunday's matchup had been looming as a challenge all week after the White Sox called up Kopech for his Major League debut last Tuesday. Kopech, denied a chance at a win Tuesday by a rain delay, came back with a glimpse of the stuff that could torment Tigers hitters for the next several years, from a 98-mph fastball that froze Nicholas Castellanos for a first-inning strikeout to a darting slider that sent down James McCann swinging with runners at the corners in the fourth.
"He's got good stuff, and he's only going to get better," McCann said. "I think as time goes on and guys have seen him more than once, then we'll see how he is, but overall I thought his stuff was pretty good."
How Kopech develops could be a deciding factor in the American League Central in the coming years. While the White Sox have stockpiled elite young hitters in their rebuilding project, the Tigers' rebuild has so far been centered around starting pitching. If Kopech pitches up to his potential, he could give the White Sox an edge.
The Tigers had their chances Sunday, including having the bases loaded in the fourth after two hit-by-pitches, but they didn't convert until back-to-back doubles from Castellanos and Victor Martinez to begin the sixth. Detroit went on to load the bases on Kopech (1-0) again in the inning before he escaped with a Ronny Rodriguez double play.
"The kid was winging it pretty good," Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said of Kopech. "His breaking ball wasn't great or anything, but his fastball's up there in the mid-90s. He's an impressive kid, threw the ball good."
The Tigers needed a solid outing from Zimmermann to keep pace, and he showed early signs of building on his six innings of one-run ball against the Cubs in his last start. A four-run, five-hit third nullified that, powered by former Tiger Avisail Garcia's two-run single and Daniel Palka's two-run homer.
"Zimm wasn't great, but he was hanging in there," Gardenhire said. "He had a couple bad innings, got a couple balls up and they got 'em. Ball was coming out of his hand fine. These guys are just really aggressive hitters when you're around the zone a lot, and they put some swings on him."
Zimmermann (6-6) struck out five batters with no walks over six innings, but allowed five runs on eight hits. Rodriguez, who ended the second, fourth and sixth innings with runners left on base, added a ninth-inning solo home run, his second homer in four games.
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Ninth-inning rally falls short: The Tigers had the makings of one more rally after Rodriguez's homer, loading the bases with one out on lefty Hector Santiago with the middle of the order due up. Castellanos' four-pitch walk brought White Sox manager Rick Renteria out with a hook. Jace Fry came on and fell behind on 2-0 counts to Detroit's next two hitters, but he induced a Martinez popout before striking out pinch-hitter Jose Iglesias on a ball in the dirt.
Martinez's double marked the 1,167th RBI of his career, tying him with Steve Finley for 155th on the all-time Major League list. Martinez has 14 RBIs since July 23, during which he's batting .320 (31-for-97) with eight doubles and two home runs.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Maybe it was fitting that a Tigers shortstop made a highlight play on the day the team honored Trammell. Rodriguez, starting at short to give Iglesias a day off, made a running, over-the-shoulder grab in short left field to take a hit away from Nicky Delmonico in the fourth inning. Trammell, who was talking with reporters at the time, took notice.
"That was a heckuva play," Trammell said.
HE SAID IT
"That's about as inspirational as you can get. Tram epitomizes what you want to be in a baseball player. He played here for 20 years, deservedly made the Hall of Fame and got his number retired. Sitting there, watching and hearing other Hall of Famers, All-Stars, unbelievable players talking about him, it's something special. Being in this organization and being a part of the history here, being able to meet guys like him and [Al] Kaline, it's something that I hold pretty close to me, and I'll never take that for granted." -- Michael Mahtook, on Trammell's ceremony
The Tigers are off Monday before beginning a three-city, nine-game road trip with an 8:15 p.m. ET game at Kansas City on Tuesday. Matthew Boyd (8-11, 4.09 ERA) will try for his second win at Kauffman Stadium in as many months when he takes the mound opposite Jakob Junis (6-12, 4.70). JaCoby Jones is expected to return from the disabled list after missing two weeks with a right hamstring strain.
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.