Tarik Skubal looked stone cold. He sounded angry.
Discussing his performance, however, brought out some negative emotions. And rightfully so, considering Skubal was bombarded by Cleveland in the Detroit Tigers‘ gruesome 11-3 loss Saturday at Progressive Field.
“What happened today is unacceptable,” Skubal said. “That’s not who I am.”
The 24-year-old surrendered 1,261 feet of home runs — on three no-doubters — and couldn’t command his revered fastball that got him to the majors last season. In the process, the Tigers sunk to a 3-5 record and became losers in five of their last six games.
“I missed middle a little too much,” Skubal said. “That’s what happens when you’re not in good counts and miss middle. You pay for it. … I mean, if those fastballs are in those spots, I don’t think the results are what they are. Location dictated those results.”
He also allowed five hits and three walks, with three strikeouts.
Skubal allowed his first home run in the second inning, an absolute missile by Roberto Perez. The ball traveled 430 feet with a 107.7 mph exit velocity, the third-fastest hit in the game. His fastball, a mere 92.3 mph, tunneled straight down the heart of the plate.
Perez, an eight-year MLB veteran, didn’t miss on a 1-1 count.
“He couldn’t put his fastball anywhere where he wanted to,” manager AJ Hinch said. “He got burned on it quite a few times in even counts and hitters’ counts. He got beat on some pitches and didn’t have his best stuff.”
Skubal had issues with his command, walkingJose Ramirez on four pitches in the first, then walking Yu Chang in the second on six pitches, just prior to Perez’s homer.
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Skubal’s splitter, learned from Casey Mize over the offseason, hung up in the strike zone against Cesar Hernandez in the third. Hernandez, with nine MLB seasons under his belt, clobbered the breaking ball for a 399-foot home run, with a 105.5 mph exit velocity.
Jordan Luplow delivered the final blow to Skubal’s start with one out in the fourth inning, following a double to Chang and walk to Perez. The Tigers starter tossed consecutive fastballs — both at 94 mph — for his only two pitches of the at-bat; the second screamer came off Luplow’s bat at 106.9 mph and was sent 432 feet to center field for a 6-0 lead.
Skubal didn’t return for the fifth inning.
“He was very frustrated when his night was over,” Hinch said. “I think he’s going to have a clear understanding of what went wrong and what execution does to him. It makes it very difficult when you can’t execute. … It’s pretty obvious what he struggled with tonight and ultimately what the consequences were.”
Skubal knows exactly what went wrong: He didn’t command his fastball, and Cleveland continued its recent torrent of runs against the Tigers’ pitching staff.
But he hasn’t fully digested what happened.
After each outing, Skubal writes in a notebook to highlight what he did right, what he did wrong, what he learned and how he can get better. As of about 15 minutes following the game, he wasn’t sure what he would pen.
“I’m still thinking about it,” Skubal said. “I’m going to watch film tonight, talk with (pitching coach Chris) Fetter. I guess, off the top of my head, fastball command wasn’t great. If I’m going in, I got to get in. If I’m going away, it needs to be away. Not living in the middle of the plate.
“But I’ll watch some film and look at some things to compare and see what I see.”
Skubal threw 75 pitches, 46 of them strikes. He used 36 four-seam fastballs, 21 sliders, 11 splitters and seven curveballs. He got eight swings-and-misses and 11 called strikes, and his ERA more than doubled, from 3.38 to 7.71 through two starts.
On Saturday, his fastball averaged 93.4 mph — down from last year’s average of 94.4 mph — and maxed out at 95.4 mph. Skubal’s average fastball spin rate was down 207 revolutions per minute, from 2,422 rpm in 2020 to 2,215 rpm Saturday night.
He wasn’t sure what to make of the numbers, despite being analytically savvy, and said everything felt normal while pitching. He wasn’t battling any physical troubles.
More so, Skubal believes his struggles were a product of missing his target.
In five days, when the Tigers open a four-game series in Oakland, Skubal will get another chance. And it wouldn’t surprising to see him pitch with a little extra aggression and something new to prove in hopes of getting back on track.
“Just learning from it and moving forward,” Skubal said. “I can prepare really well between now and then, so that’s kind of where I’m at.”