Tarik Skubal’s ‘lack of execution’ catches up to him and the Detroit Tigers

Detroit Free Press
Dana Gauruder |  Special to Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Tigers played mostly clean baseball while sweeping a three-game series from the Houston Astros this week. Their opener in Oakland on Thursday was marred by the Dirty Dozen.

Detroit pitchers issued 12 walks in an 8-4 loss to the A’s at RingCentral Coliseum. The free passes led to five runs.

Toss in a couple of errors and the Tigers gave themselves no chance to extend their winning streak.

Tarik Skubal had another short outing despite retiring the first six batters he faced. For the second straight start, he lasted four innings.

He gave up two hits, yet required 88 pitches to get those 12 outs. The four walks he issued, along with two infield errors, forced him to wiggle out of two bases- loaded jams.

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“Just looked like he was battling himself,” manager AJ Hinch said postgame. “He had a lot of long at-bats. He was pretty frustrated at the end. It’s a lot of pitches in a short amount of time. I was happy he kept us where he did.”

Skubal gave up just one unearned run outside of the slider he hung to Stephen Piscotty for a home run in the third inning. With the bases jammed and two out in the third, he fell behind in the count to cleanup hitter Matt Chapman, 3-1, but came back to strike him out with a four-seam fastball.

A walk and a Jeimer Candelario throwing error helped Oakland take a 2-1 lead in the fourth.

Skubal got himself in more danger by walking two more batters, but escaped further damage on Jed Lowrie’s warning track fly to center.

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“He’s got some guts and he’s got good stuff,” Hinch said. “That is something positive to take away but he knows how it got there. The lack of execution caught up to him a little bit and certainly ended his night pretty early.”

Skubal gave up six runs, including three homers, in his previous four-inning outing against Cleveland.

Pitching more efficiently and getting deeper into games is the next step in his development.

“Of course they’re frustrating,” Skubal said of his back-to-back four-inning starts. “It’s not good for anybody. It’s not good for me, it’s not good for our bullpen, putting those guys in tough spots. That’s part of being a starting pitcher — you’ve got to understand that you’ve got to set the tone to save those guys. The last thing you want to do is put those guys in positions where they don’t feel fresh. I’ll take responsibility for that.”

The quartet of relievers Hinch marched to the mound didn’t have any better luck finding the plate. In the sixth, Joe Jimenez faced four batters in his season debut after coming off the taxi squad earlier in the day, and walked three.

Home plate umpire Ted Barrett squeezed him on a potential strikeout pitch against the last batter he faced, Lowrie. Jimenez threw two more balls and his night was over.

“He just lost the strike zone,” Hinch said. “That was a precursor to a really bad inning for us.”

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Alex Lange and Tyler Alexander issued bases-loaded walks during Oakland’s four-run sixth. Detroit pitchers walked 11 batters during the three-game Astros series.

“We played a little sluggish,” Hinch said. “We didn’t challenge the strike zone. We mishandled a couple of balls. Looking back, it was not our best productive game.”

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