The first matchup of a weekend three-game series against the Cubs saw the north-siders defeat the Tigers, 4-2.
Jake Arrieta, who’s no slouch but isn’t quite the pitcher he was five years ago, got the nod for the Cubs. Tarik Skubal started for the Tigers, and whether you value pitcher wins as a useful stat or you think they’re overrated, you don’t want to be sitting at 0-5 on the year, whatever the case. But that’s where Skubal was, coming into tonight.
Both teams traded zeros until the third, when Willson Contreras snuck a one-out single under Jeimer Candelario’s glove, and Kris Bryant squeaked a home run just over the right-field fence to make it 2-0 for the Cubs.
Skubal’s Achiles Heel so far this year has been the home run: coming into tonight, he’d given up a whopping 10 home runs so far in 27 innings. Ouch.
Jason Heyward doubled to centre to lead off the fifth, and after a Bryant walk and a wild pitch, Anthony Rizzo doubled to right to plate Heyward. A Javier Baez bloop to centre scored Bryant, making it 4-0. Plenty of lefties had hard-hit balls against Skubal, and his slider just really wasn’t working against them tonight. Coming into tonight’s game, left-handed batters were 4-for-22 (.182/.333/.227, for an OPS of .561) against him, so this was a little out-of-character.
Arrieta, meanwhile, was cruising along quite nicely through five, with the only three baserunners he’d allowed being subsequently erased via the double play. But, in comparison to the historically futile offensive stretch the Tigers endured recently, you never really thought it was a hopeless situation… right?
AJ Hinch showed again that his philosophy regarding young pitchers getting into trouble is to let them figure it out a bit. I’m a fan, and I’m not alone:
Have to like A.J. Hinch not babying Mize and Skubal. They’ve both benefitted from these “developmental innings,” and Skubal ends his outing on a much better note.
— Cody Stavenhagen (@CodyStavenhagen) May 15, 2021
Skubal battled through six innings, giving up eight hits and four runs. But he only walked one, and he only gave up one home run, so let’s just call him a “work in progress.”
The bats showed a little life in the sixth with two outs, with Jake “The ‘Stache” Rogers and Robbie “The Scruff” Grossman going back-to-back.
Bryan Garcia pitched the seventh and gave up a couple of hard-hit outs and a walk, but otherwise limited the damage. Kyle Funkhouser, who could be a nice addition to this bullpen if he keeps up what he’s been doing so far, allowed a single but then induced a ground-ball double play.
The top of the ninth featured a somewhat unusual play: with one out and Heyward on first via a walk, Funkhouser was facing Contreras. With two strikes, Heyward took off for second; Contreras watched strike three go by (like a house by the side of the road), but apparently he interfered with Rogers’ ability to throw down to second, so Heyward was called out on “batter interference.” You don’t see that every day.
Craig Kimbrel dispatched the Tigers easily in the ninth with, what else, three whiffs. Kimbrel’s gonna Kimbrel.
A Variety of Things Possibly Worth Noting
- Coming into today, Miguel Cabrera had multi-hit games in four of his previous five games. They’re all singles, but hey, it’s an improvement.
- Cabrera was 0-for-3 tonight.
- On this date in 1796, Edward Jenner administered the world’s first vaccine, for smallpox. Remember smallpox? I don’t, because we wiped it off the darn planet using vaccination! Be a hero, people.