Detroit Tigers left-hander Tarik Skubal needed 61 pitches to make eight outs in his second long relief appearance this year. The 24-year-old flashed improvements but gave up two runs.
That was all the Kansas City Royals needed.
The Tigers (7-15) were shutout for the third time in the 2021 season with a 4-0 loss to the Royals on Sunday at Comerica Park. They collected five hits and struck out 13 times. Previously, the Oakland Athletics held the Tigers scoreless in back-to-back games April 16-17.
Detroit has lost four in a row and nine of its last 10 games.
Across the last 10 games, the Tigers are 56-for-304 (.184) with 18 runs, 13 walks and 102 strikeouts. In three clashes with the Royals, they’re 13-for-92 (.141) with three runs, four walks and 38 strikeouts. Kansas City has scored 12 runs in the series.
Skubal allowed one run each in the fifth and sixth innings. The Royals tacked on two more runs in the ninth inning against right-handed reliever Buck Farmer.
After getting two outs in the sixth, Skubal gave up a home run to Hunter Dozier, who crushed Skubal’s fastball beyond the left-field wall. His outing ended after 2⅔ innings with a single from Andrew Benintendi. He threw 39 of his 61 pitches for strikes, recorded three strikeouts and did not issue a walk.
Detroit takes on Kansas City at 1:10 p.m. Monday in the four-game series finale. Right-hander Spencer Turnbull is starting, opposed by righty Brad Keller. Afterward, the Tigers begin a nine-game road trip against the Chicago White Sox (April 27-29), New York Yankees (April 30-May 2) and Boston Red Sox (May 4-6).
A tough return
Miguel Cabrera made his return to the lineup for the first time since April 10. The 38-year-old had been on the 10-day injured list since April 11 with a left biceps strain. Manager AJ Hinch started him at first base and put him No. 3 in the batting order against Royals starter Danny Duffy.
But Cabrera didn’t provide an immediate spark.
The 19-year MLB veteran went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, all on swinging third strikes, in his return. He was dusted on a 3-2 fastball in the first inning, 3-2 changeup in the fourth and 1-2 fastball in the sixth. He flied out to center field for the second out in the ninth inning.
Duffy lowered his ERA to 0.39 through four games (23 innings) this season by posting five scoreless innings against the Tigers. He struck out eight batters without granting a walk. Detroit got four hits against him, including three in the fourth frame.
Fulmer solid in short start
The Tigers never planned to let right-hander Michael Fulmer pitch deep into Sunday’s game because he was operating on short rest as part of Hinch’s modified six-man rotation. (He went four innings Wednesday against the Pittsburgh Pirates, before giving way to Skubal.)
The 28-year-old tossed three scoreless innings with two strikeouts, giving up one hit and two walks. He generated 18 strikes with his 36 pitches.
Fulmer walked two batters — Carlos Santana and Jorge Soler — in the first inning but didn’t allow a run. He needed 22 pitches to get through the first frame before settling down with 10 pitches in the second inning and six pitches in the third inning. The only hit against Fulmer was a second-inning single from Michael A. Taylor.
He mixed his pitches well, using his slider (12 pitches) and sinker (11 pitches) as his top two offerings, followed by eight four-seam fastballs. Fulmer got five swings-and-misses: two sliders, one sinker, one four-seamer and one changeup. He added four called strikes, and his fastball velocity averaged 95.3 mph and maxed out at 96.9 mph.
In the first inning, Fulmer struck out Ryan O’Hearn looking on a 2-2 sinker with two runners in scoring position and two outs. He punched out Dozier swinging on three pitches — capped off by a slider — in the second inning.
In the bottom of the fourth inning, the Tigers were gifted with a rare scoring opportunity.
With one out, Niko Goodrum tested the arm of Royals catcher Salvador Perez, one of the best in the game at his position. He tried to steal second base but got caught by Perez’s throw to second baseman Whit Merrifield. It was a close play, but second base umpire Ben May called Goodrum out.
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The next two batters, Jeimer Candelario and Wilson Ramos, singled to put runners on the corners with two outs. Of course, Goodrum would’ve scored had he not attempted to steal earlier in the inning. Instead, Willi Castro struck out swinging on an elevated 95 mph fastball in a 3-2 count.
His strikeout stranded two runners to end the fourth.