Zumaya struggles in loss to Jays
Tigers reliever allows two runs on two hits, three walks
DETROIT -- Ever since Joel Zumaya underwent shoulder surgery last fall, games like this were the motivation for working his way back. Now that he's back in those games again, his health is back in question.
Tuesday was the kind of game Zumaya enters to shut down, but it ended with Zumaya possibly shut down for the time being. The triple-digit fastball that Zumaya boasts had neither the same speed nor command, though Zumaya topped out around 97 mph. The breaking ball that Zumaya could drop on hitters for strikes as they geared up for fastballs wasn't drawing those swings.
As a result, that third out was all too elusive. The Tigers had a two-run lead with two outs in the seventh inning with the middle of the Blue Jays order coming up. All five batters he faced reached base safely, fueling a four-run rally in a 6-4 Detroit loss and fueling the speculation that something is wrong with Zumaya.
"We're very suspicious that he's not right," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "I mean, enough's enough. It's not his fault. We're just getting him checked out for precautionary measures.
"I know he's not right. I don't know if he's hurt, but he's definitely not right. I know that for a fact."
It's a difficult admission for a team that had been hoping for Zumaya to be a late-inning presence for the stretch run. Whether or not he's hurt -- and a team doctor examined Zumaya after the game to try to determine that -- he doesn't appear to be back, not the Zumaya that was the consistent late-inning force two years ago and part of last season.
"We'll have to wait and take the advice of the medical people," Leyland said. "His demeanor and everything, he doesn't look right. Something's not right, the way he's carrying himself."
Earlier this year, Leyland had cautioned that it could be next year before Zumaya's truly back to his old form. Still, his performance upon his return in June, especially with his fastball velocity, raised hopes. Tuesday was one of those nights where the Tigers' hopes were dashed.
Zach Miner held Toronto to a lone run on five hits over six innings, but a generally innocuous at-bat against ninth hitter John McDonald might've cost him a chance to go out for the seventh. The former Tiger worked Miner for a 12-pitch at-bat in the fifth inning that culminated in a one-out walk. Miner got out of the fifth in five more pitches and retired the side in order in the sixth, but ended up topping the 100-pitch mark in the process.
"The one at-bat to McDonald probably cost me a whole inning," Miner said afterwards. "I threw the whole bag at him. I had nothing for him that at-bat."
Miner was done in the sixth with the score tied before Magglio Ordonez's go-ahead solo shot and Gary Sheffield's second home run of the night put Detroit in command in the bottom of the inning. Back-to-back doubles tacked on another run for a 4-1 lead, but Brandon Inge was caught stealing third for the final out on an apparent mix-up.
"Brandon thought he saw something," Leyland said, "but we didn't have anything on, obviously. You don't steal third with a left-handed hitter and two outs and you've got a little something going."
Still, it left a three-run lead for Detroit's bullpen to protect with the bottom of the Blue Jays order coming up. Adam Lind, whose tape-measure solo homer comprised the lone run off Miner, started the rally with a leadoff single off Bobby Seay before McDonald capped a 10-pitch at-bat by doubling him over to third.
Because Seay fell behind on McDonald, he had to go with fastballs once he was down on a 2-0 count.
"He battled," Seay said. "Bottom line, I just couldn't make a pitch to him. He was lunging on fastballs by the eighth or ninth one I threw him."
Joe Inglett's ensuing groundout plated Lind before Leyland went to Zumaya to try to finish off the side. Marco Scutaro greeted him by hitting a fastball back through the middle for an RBI single. Zumaya put Alex Rios in a 1-2 count before missing with back-to-back breaking balls and then a fastball for a walk.
"He just doesn't have a good feel for the breaking ball," Leyland said.
After a first-pitch ball to Vernon Wells prompted a mound visit from pitching coach Chuck Hernandez, Wells lined the next pitch into the gap in left-center field to plate both runners and put Toronto ahead for good.
Zumaya (0-2) left after an intentional pass to Matt Stairs and an unintentional four-pitch walk to Rod Barajas. Kyle Farnsworth entered to retire Lind, but the Blue Jays had the lead for their bullpen to protect. Lind's RBI single in the ninth off Freddy Dolsi added an insurance run.
The loss was the Tigers' 12th this season when leading after six innings. The stat Leyland pointed out was save situations, in which the Tigers are now 24-for-44.
"We have to shut that down," Leyland said.
If Zumaya has to be shut down, however, the concern would be considerably greater. Even if Zumaya is fine, Leyland said, "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.