DETROIT -- Jordan Zimmermann and Mike Pelfrey were National League East opponents for a few years with their original clubs, but they've become relatively good friends in the Tigers' clubhouse. They pull for each other, which made Pelfrey's 4 1/3 scoreless innings of relief a bright side in Friday's 7-4 loss to the Indians.
If only for that Zimmermann start that preceded it.
"I think I would've preferred not to have to do it," Pelfrey said of his work. "Obviously that meant something went wrong or it was extra innings or something."
What went wrong, in Zimmermann's opinion, was his entire start.
"I wasn't very good tonight," he said. "Location was terrible on every pitch I had. It's tough to go out there and pitch when you can't locate. I'll look at the film tomorrow and see if I can figure something out, but this loss is on me. I have to do a better job, and I will do a better job. I just have to figure out what went wrong tonight."
Zimmermann seemed to have put the off-and-on struggles from his groin injury last month behind him in his previous start, tossing eight innings of one-run, four-hit, no-walk ball last Sunday at Kansas City. In manager Brad Ausmus' opinion, that stretch is still behind him. Friday night, Ausmus considered an isolated outing.
"I don't think Zimm was right tonight from the get-go," Ausmus said. "I don't think he felt great. He clearly wasn't as sharp as we've seen other times, but I think it just was an off night."
Seven of the nine hits Zimmermann allowed over his season-low 3 2/3 innings came in two-strike counts. Five of the nine hits went for extra bases. He didn't give up a home run for the third straight outing, but he became the first Tigers pitcher to give up four triples in a game since Schoolboy Rowe against the Philadelphia A's on May 20, 1939.
Three of those triples came in a seven-batter stretch of the fourth inning that turned an early deficit into an unrecoverable margin off Zimmermann. Jose Ramirez hit a drive to the wall in right-center to start it. Lonnie Chisenhall hit a liner that right fielder Steven Moya lost in the lights for a two-run three-bagger.
By the time Jason Kipnis, who had tripled into the right-field corner an inning earlier, ended Zimmermann's night with a gapper to right-center, Moya had been run ragged. And Zimmermann had seen his ERA jump from 3.24 after his previous start to 3.81.
"It was everything," Zimmermann said. "I threw a couple sliders to Kipnis that didn't do anything and spun. Usually they're back foot and he's swinging over the top. Fastball, [catcher James McCann is] setting up inside and I'm throwing it a foot outside for whatever reason. I have no clue. I'll try to figure it out tomorrow and go from there."
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.