Detroit Tigers wrap up 2020 with 3-1 loss to Kansas City Royals

Detroit Free Press

Evan Petzold
| Detroit Free Press

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Jordan Zimmermann’s tenure with the Detroit Tigers came to a close in a one-inning start as the team (possibly) wrapped up the 2020 season.

His teammates shook his hand, patted him on the back and gave him hugs as he entered the dugout. He allowed one hit in his one inning and struck out two. His final pitch was an 84.4 mph slider to get Salvador Perez chasing.

And then, left-handed rookie Tarik Skubal took over. 

The Tigers (23-35) were upended by two home runs allowed by Skubal in his five-inning outing, losing 3-1 to the Kansas City Royals on Sunday at Kauffman Stadium. The final out came on Niko Goodrum’s strikeout against Royals closer Jesse Hahn.

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Detroit scored its only run on Brandon Dixon’s two-out double off the center-field wall in the first inning. He drove in rookie Daz Cameron, who reached on a fielder’s choice.

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After the end of Sunday’s game, which started early due to weather concerns, the Tigers shifted their focus to the outcome of games involving the St. Louis Cardinals, Milwaukee Brewers and San Francisco Giants. While the Tigers were eliminated from the expanded postseason Thursday, they could play an doubleheader Monday against the Cardinals, making up games postponed in August due to COVID-19 concerns.

The Tigers will avoid the additional games if the Cardinals beat the Brewers on Sunday. But wins by the Brewers and Giants (facing the San Diego Padres) would put the contests on the calendar. If the doubleheader is played, right-hander Casey Mize will start Game 1, with a to-be-determined second-game starter. 

Two hits crush Skubal

Had it not been for two pitches, the Tigers would’ve had much more momentum entering the final innings.

In the fourth inning, Adalberto Mondesi crushed Skubal’s 94.5 mph fastball at the top of the strike zone over the wall in left-center field. In the next inning, Ryan McBroom homered off his 86.3 mph slider. The pair of homers gave the Royals a 2-1 lead, and it was all they needed to steal a victory.

Mondesi added an RBI double in the eighth off reliever Daniel Norris.

The rest of the way, Skubal dominated. Replacing Zimmermann in the second inning, the 23-year-old allowed two runs on two hits and one walk with six strikeouts. He departed after five innings of work and 87 pitches. He used 60% fastballs, 21% changeups, 13% sliders and 7% curveballs.

As his fastball maxed out at 96.6 mph, Skubal recorded 14 swinging strikes — nine with his fastball and four with his changeup — and six called strikes.

Skubal finished his first season with a 5.63 ERA and 37 strikeouts across 32 innings and eight outings. He allowed 21 runs (20 earned), nine home runs and 11 walks. 

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They meet again

Rookie right-hander Brady Singer matched up with Skubal on Sept. 16 at Comerica Park and, like Sunday, came out on top. In Detroit, he tossed six scoreless innings, only allowing two hits and one walk with eight strikeouts in 81 pitches. Skubal countered with six innings of his own, but he allowed three runs (two earned) on four hits. He matched Singer’s eight strikeouts on 90 pitches. It was also a reunion of the 2018 draft, of sorts: Singer was the No. 18 overall pick in 2018, while the Tigers took Skubal 237 picks later, in the ninth round at 255th overall.

In their second meeting on the diamond, Singer was even better. After the first inning, he carved through the Tigers — retiring the minimum in innings 2-7.

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Of his 87 pitches, Singer used 57% sinkers, 40% sliders and one each of his changeup and four-seam fastball. He got eight swinging strikes and 22 called strikes, which showcased his superb command. His fastball averaged 92.8 mph.

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Hahn and Scott Barlow came out of the bullpen to keep the Tigers at bay through the final two innings to complete the win.

Gordon ends 14-year career

Before the top of the second inning began, Royals manager Mike Matheny went to home-plate umpire Eric Bacchus to make a defensive replacement.

He removed Alex Gordon from left field.

Gordon finished his playing career Sunday after 14 years — all for Kansas City. He took the field for 1,753 games, registering a .257 batting average, 190 home runs and 749 RBIs in 6,391 at-bats. 

His final at-bat ended with an 85.4 mph slider from Zimmermann, swung on and missed by Gordon.

Evan Petzold is a sports reporting intern at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzoldThe Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here’s how you can gain access to our most exclusive Detroit Tigers content

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