Detroit Tigers Lose Season Finale 3-1 in Kansas City; Focus Shifts to Offseason
Jason Ross Jr.
A warm embrace from pitching coach Rick Anderson awaited Jordan Zimmermann at the bottom step of the Tigers' dugout. The hug followed what was likely Zimmermann's final inning in a Tigers uniform.
The 34-year-old returned earlier this month to a season unlike any other. A couple of short months ago, we weren't sure if we'd be reflecting on a 2020 MLB season.
As different as it looked, felt and sounded, the shortened 60-game campaign did happen, and it's officially in the books for the Detroit Tigers.
After Sunday's 3-1 loss to the Kansas City Royals, 23-35 will be Detroit's final record in an MLB-low 58 games due to a few COVID-19-related postponements.
The final glimpse of Zimmermann?
The majority of Jordan Zimmermann's tenure in Detroit will be tainted by injuries and struggles, unlike the success he experienced in a Washington Nationals uniform.
Having said that, if Sunday's brief start is indeed the final glimpse of Zimmermann wearing a Tigers uniform, he managed to end on a high note. Albeit only one inning, the right-hander allowed one hit and struck out two in 18 pitches before Tarik Skubal's preordained second inning appearance.
"We all wanted Zim (Jordan Zimmermann) to have a clean inning," Tigers interim manager Lloyd McClendon said. And you know, a successful exit, and he did a really nice job in that inning. Everybody was extremely proud."
One of Zimmermann's two strikeouts ironically came against Alex Gordon, who ended a 14-year major league career today after 1,753 games, all of which were played in a Royals uniform.
After Zimmermann's departure, Brandon Dixon's first hit of 2020 came in the form of an RBI double to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Unfortunately, it turned out to be their lone run on a 3-hit afternoon at Kauffman Stadium.
Brady Singer, who threw 60 of his first 86 pitches for strikes on Sunday, retired 18 of the final 19 batters he faced in a sublime closing act to his rookie season.
Skubal is hungry for more
Ten Tigers made their major league debuts in 2020.
Left-hander Tarik Skubal, a former ninth-round draft pick out of Seattle University, was one of them.
The 23-year-old rookie threw 87 pitches in five innings of work that showcased why he's thought of as an integral piece in the starting rotation moving forward.
Skubal fearlessly attacked the strike zone with his fastball, while blending in a healthy diet of changeups in his final outing of the season.
The two hits that Skubal did allow turned out to be deciding factors in Sunday's ballgame: Adalberto Mondesi belted a 94.5 mph fastball over the left-center field fence in the fourth inning. Ryan McBroom followed with a solo shot in the fifth inning off an 86.3 mph slider to give Kansas City a 3-1 lead that wouldn't be surrendered.
A little over two years and three months after the Tigers selected Skubal 255th in the 2018 MLB draft, he fanned six in his first season finale.
Sunday's performance solidified why he could and should be on the mound in a Tigers uniform for years to come.
Skubal's focus now shifts to what he can do before spring training to ensure his spot in the rotation when next season arrives.
"I feel like I learned a lot, and I developed a lot, and I have a lot to take into the offseason and start working on right away," Skubal said. I wish that wasn't my last start. I want to keep pitching."
The eagerness and anticipation within Skubal's words is something that all Tigers fans can relate to at this current juncture.
A sixth consecutive season without playoff baseball in a city that loves the game and their team is frustrating, but a part of the rebuilding process.
There are 186 days until the arrival of Detroit's next opening day. Hopefully, 2021 will allow for Comerica Park to be filled with fans when the Indians land in Detroit to kick off next season.
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