MINNEAPOLIS -- Jordan Zimmermann continued his dominant start to the season with another sterling performance, and he was backed by a three-run homer from Justin Upton to lift the Tigers to a 4-1 win over the Twins on Saturday afternoon at Target Field.
Zimmermann went seven strong innings, allowing one run on six hits with seven strikeouts. The right-hander improved to 5-0 with a 0.55 ERA this season. He's the third pitcher in the Majors to reach five victories. The lone run he gave up came on a solo blast by Byung Ho Park in the fourth.
Zimmermann is the sixth pitcher to finish April with five-plus wins, zero losses and a sub-1.00 ERA. He joins Fernando Valenzuela (1981), Zack Greinke (2009), Ubaldo Jimenez (2010), Randy Johnson (2000) and Cliff Lee (2008).
"I'm pitching probably the best I've ever pitched in my career," Zimmermann said. "I'm able to get out of some jams, like I said all along. I was in one and I got the double-play ball in the seventh there, which really helped out. These guys gave me three runs early, and I was able to settle in and throw strikes and just be myself and not have to worry about a tight ballgame."
Zimmermann outpitched Twins right-hander Tyler Duffey, who served up the three-run dinger to Upton in the first before settling down. The homer came after an error by third baseman Eduardo Nunez, making the three runs unearned. Duffey, in his second start of the season, ended up going 6 1/3 innings, surrendering four runs (one earned) on five hits with seven strikeouts.
"It's my own fault there," Duffey said of Upton's homer. "I threw the wrong pitch, actually. I'm almost glad he hit it because otherwise it might've put [John Ryan] Murphy in jeopardy. He called curveball, and I threw fastball. So it's one of those things you learn from quickly. It was a mistake, and it ended up costing us the game."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Heading on Up-ton: For the second game in a row, the Tigers headed to the bottom of the first inning with a 3-0 lead. With J.D. Martinez and Victor Martinez on base, Upton hit his second homer of the season deep to the second deck in left field. In his first year with Detroit, Upton is starting to find his stroke since being moved to the fifth spot in the batting order. In the past four games, Upton is 5-for-19 (.263) with four RBIs. He was hitting .211 in 18 games as the No. 2 hitter.
"Give [Zimmermann] a three-run lead, we're pretty confident he can work with that," Upton said. "If we can fight and get on the board early and let our guys work, we'll be all right." More >
Park goes boom: Park hit his team-leading sixth home run of the year in the fourth inning, which was also the first homer given up by Zimmermann this season. It came on a 1-2 slider, leaving the bat at 112 mph and going a projected 435 feet, per Statcast™.
"He was really locating his pitches and didn't leave many up in the zone, but the one that I hit was up in the zone," Park said through interpreter J.D. Kim. "I got lucky." More >
Keeping it low: Zimmermann maintained his minuscule ERA by erasing baserunners when Minnesota did have chances. With a 3-1 lead, Zimmermann struck out Danny Santana and Brian Dozier to end the fifth after John Ryan Murphy reached second on an error. Zimmerman retired three in a row after Joe Mauer's leadoff single in the sixth and got Eddie Rosario to ground into a double play after Nunez's leadoff single in the seventh.
Duffey settles in: After giving up the three-run homer to Upton in the first, Duffey didn't give up another hit until the sixth inning. Miguel Cabrera broke that stretch with a two-out double and came around to score on a double from Victor Martinez that went over Miguel Sano's head in right field.
"He made a mistake with the fastball and Upton crushed it, but he settled in pretty good," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "I thought he pitched aggressively. He used his fastball. He did OK."
"He's been everything we could have asked to this point, and I hope he doesn't disappoint over the length of his contract. If he can keep doing this the length of his contract, he might get another one that's even bigger even though he's older." -- Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, on Zimmermann
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Zimmermann's 0.55 ERA is the third-best mark for April in Tigers history. He has allowed just two earned runs in 33 innings pitched. The only two Detroit pitchers with better ERAs in April were Bernie Boland with a 0.30 ERA in 1915 and John Hiller with a 0.36 ERA in 1974.
The Twins won a challenge with two outs in the fourth, when Eduardo Escobar was initially ruled out at first base by umpire Brian Gorman. The Twins challenged the ruling on the field, and the call was overturned. After the overturned play, Nunez flied out to right to end the inning.
WHAT'S NEXT Tigers: Right-hander Mike Pelfrey will start against his former team for the first time since signing a two-year contract with Detroit over the offseason. Over three seasons in Minnesota, Pelfrey was 11-27 with a 4.94 ERA. He is 0-4 with a 4.64 ERA in four starts for the Tigers. First pitch is scheduled for 2:10 p.m. ET on Sunday.
Twins: Right-hander Ricky Nolasco has been Minnesota's best starter early this season, and he is set to start against the Tigers at 1:10 p.m. CT Sunday. Nolasco (1-0, 3.25 ERA) has pitched into the seventh inning in all four of his starts.