KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Jordan Zimmermann threw just about every pitch against Kansas City for a strike Monday night.
Except the one that plunked Alcides Escobar.
The Tigers’ veteran starter pounded the zone in a dominant performance against the Royals, and backed by long home runs from Nicholas Castellanos and Mikie Mahtook, he helped Detroit to a 10-2 rout to open a four-game series between AL Central rivals.
“These guys scored a ton of runs early, so I was able to pound the zone,” said Zimmermann, who gave up one run and threw 79 of 97 pitches for strikes over 6 2/3 innings. “They’re a pretty aggressive team. Obviously I was throwing strikes, too.”
The dominance was partly a result of first-pitch strikes to 24 of the 28 batters he faced, which helped Zimmermann (6-7) snap a personal three-game skid with his first win since June 3.
“He’s been around long enough to know when you have a lead to throw strikes,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. “I think the lopsided score played into it.”
As for Escobar, the Royals shortstop was hit in the left wrist in the seventh inning and remained crumpled on the ground for several minutes. But he escaped with a bruise and could play Tuesday night.
“Deadened it, numbed it. He’s OK,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “He’s feeling much better.”
Eric Hosmer homered in the eighth for Kansas City. Whit Merrifield also drove in a run.
Things went awry for Vargas from the first pitch, which Kinsler swatted to the fence for a double. Vargas proceeded to match a season high with four walks, Kinsler added a pair of triples off him, and the homers by Castellanos and Mahtook combined to go nearly 900 feet.
“He just wasn’t sharp. He struggled with his command,” Yost said. “His pitches were kind of flat. It’s just one of those nights for him.”
The dismal performance came after Vargas was battered for six runs — including three homers — on eight hits and a walk in five innings at Seattle in his final start before the All-Star break.
Vargas did toss a shutout inning during last week’s Midsummer Classic.
“It’s all about being able to get into a rhythm,” he said. “I just wasn’t able to do that apparently. Because of that I left some pitches up and definitely I got punished for them.”
It was Zimmermann who looked like an All-Star on Monday night, though — not someone who had allowed at least four runs each of his last three starts, and was 0-4 with a 6.99 ERA on the road.
Zimmermann breezed through a perfect first, bounced back from back-to-back singles to escape trouble in the second, then began pounding the strike zone. By the time he hit the 50-pitch mark, Zimmermann threw 44 of them for strikes, and he wound up with only four two-ball counts in the game.
“I was just trying to throw strike one, strike two and put them away,” said Zimmermann, who is now 3-0 with a 1.42 ERA against Kansas City. “It was a pretty fun night.”
Rumors have suggested that Detroit could trade slugger J.D. Martinez and closer Justin Wilson before the July 31 deadline, though both said they weren’t focused on where they might end up. “Once you’re traded once, it’s not a big deal,” said Wilson, who has been traded from the Pirates and Yankees during his six-year career. “Like I’ve said from the get-go, this is a business.”
The Royals reinstated RHP Neftali Feliz from the paternity list and recalled OF Billy Burns from Triple-A Omaha. OF Jorge Soler and RHP Miguel Almonte were optioned to the Storm Chasers.
Tigers LHP Daniel Norris (left groin strain) is making a rehab start for Triple-A Toledo on Tuesday night. … Martinez was removed in the seventh as a precautionary measure with lower back tightness.
Royals INF Cheslor Cuthbert (left wrist sprain) went to Omaha to begin a rehab assignment. Cuthbert was hitting .196 in 33 games when he went on the DL retroactive to June 26.
The Tigers are recalling LHP Matt Boyd from Toledo to start Tuesday night, while the Royals will send LHP Travis Wood for his second start of the season. Boyd’s last start with Detroit came May 31 in Kansas City, when he allowed four runs on seven hits and a walk in 3 2/3 innings.
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