Tigers’ past, future on display in Zim, Skubal

Detroit Tigers

Jordan Zimmermann did not get a farewell ceremony for what is likely his final start as a Tiger, though he received plenty of hugs in the Tigers’ dugout after his first and only inning in Sunday’s 3-1 loss to the Royals at Kauffman Stadium. He also got to pass the

Jordan Zimmermann did not get a farewell ceremony for what is likely his final start as a Tiger, though he received plenty of hugs in the Tigers’ dugout after his first and only inning in Sunday’s 3-1 loss to the Royals at Kauffman Stadium. He also got to pass the baton, so to speak, to the next generation.

After Zimmermann served as the opener as a thank you for five seasons in Detroit’s rotation, rookie left-hander Tarik Skubal spent the next five innings reminding everyone why the Tigers believe he has great years ahead. His two hits allowed, both solo homers, were enough to provide the difference in Detroit’s defeat, but his six strikeouts showed off an arsenal as vast as his potential.

Box score

Half of Skubal’s strikeouts came off his changeup, a pitch that improved as the 23-year-old left-hander settled into a routine following his big league debut last month. Two more strikeouts came on his slider, another on a 95 mph fastball at the top of the strike zone. Salvador Perez and Hunter Dozier, right-handed hitters both, struck out twice.

Skubal put two-strike counts on 16 of the 18 batters he faced, including both home runs leading off the fourth and fifth innings. The only struggles Skubal faced at times was finishing off hitters. He put Adalberto Mondesi in a 1-2 count with a swing-and-miss changeup, but his ensuing fastball caught enough of the top of the strike zone for Mondesi to drive it out to tie the game.

Skubal joined the many Tigers pitchers who have struggled to figure out Mondesi. His second home run in as many games was his 11th hit of the four-game series; he added a 12th hit and an insurance run with an eighth-inning RBI double off Daniel Norris. Eight of Mondesi’s 32 career home runs have been hit off Detroit pitchers.

An inning later, Skubal put Ryan McBroom in an 0-2 hole with two called strikes, including a sharp curveball he dropped onto the inside corner. His 0-2 changeup was off the plate, but his 1-2 slider hung, allowing McBroom to connect and send it 412 feet to left.

That was enough support for Royals starter Brady Singer, a 2018 MLB Draft pick like Skubal, to outpitch him for the second time in 12 days and wrap up an outstanding rookie season. He followed Brandon Dixon’s first-inning RBI double by facing the minimum over his final 6 1/3 innings, overpowering a depleted Tigers lineup. Singer retired 18 of his final 19 batters, and erased Sergio Alcántara’s sixth-inning single with a Victor Reyes double play.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck’s Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason.

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