Well, well, well. After another strong all around performance against a struggling Mariners squad, your Detroit Tigers collected their second sweep in their last three series by a score of 6-2.
Things didn’t look all that auspicious in the first inning. The Tigers went down in order, and after Skubal got a pair of quick flyouts in the bottom half, he missed 3-2 away with a fastball to walk Kyle Lewis. Kyle Seager then turned on a fastball down and in for a two run shot, and it was looking shaky. Skubal hit 98 mph and even 99 at times in the inning, barely missed on the pitch to Lewis, but was clearly a little amped to return to Seattle where he played college ball at Seattle University.
Fortunately, the Tigers offense finally offered him some run support. Jonathan Schoop drew a walk from Mariners’ starter Logan Gilbert to lead off the second, and consecutive singles from Nomar Mazara and Eric Haase scored him. Niko Goodrum hit a deep fly ball to center that allowed both runners to move up, and Mazara scored on a Wilson Ramos ground out to even things up at 2-2.
Skubal pitched around a leadoff single in the bottom of the second, and at that point, the Tigers started wearing Gilbert down with tough at-bats. Robbie Grossman led off the third with a double into the right field corner. Harold Castro lined out to Seattle’s Mitch Haniger in right field, though he had flail a bit to haul in the blighter. Jeimer Candelario worked a 3-1 count and nailed a fastball to straightaway center field, but it died before the warning track. The squander felt imminent. Then Jonathan Schoop fought through a long at-bat to draw a walk, and Nomar Mazara slapped a fastball on the outer edge into left field to beat the shift and plate Grossman for a 3-2 lead. Scott Servais had seen enough, and that was the end of Gilbert’s night.
What was needed in the bottom half of the frame was a shutdown inning, and Skubal provided it. He got Kelenic to hack at a slider in the dirt, popped up Haniger on a fastball, and after getting behind 2-0 to Kyle Lewis, came back with a pair of good pair of heaters and a filthy changeup to strike him out. The Tigers responded with two more runs in the top of the fourth as Harold Castro came through with a bases loaded knock against former Tigers’ farm hand Will Vest to open the lead to 5-2.
Skubal had been shaky here or there during his outing, but there was no point where he lost his release and got wild. Until the bottom of the fifth. He started off by walking Sam Haggerty, including several pitches nowhere near the mark. Skubal bounced back from a 2-0 count and struck off Jose Marmolejos to lead off the inning, but then Kelenic smoked a single to center field and there was trouble brewing. Eric Haase called for a slider and back-to-back changeups, all down on the outer edge, to Mitch Haniger and Skubal struck him out on three straight pitches. Kyle Lewis battled him though a six pitch AB as Skubal mixed fastball-changeup, and then finally turned to a slider on the edge to get Lewis swinging.
It was nice to see the resilience tonight. Even when the young lefty got out of sync at times, he fought through it. His nine strikeouts were a career high, and he allowed just the two runs on four hits and two walks. Again, a little shaky at times, but he responded again and again when he had to. The Mariners offense is in similar shape to where the Tigers were a few weeks ago, but it was a good step forward.
Daniel Norris handled the sixth inning with no trouble at all, while Jose Cisnero got two quick outs and then nearly surrendered a solo shot to center field in the seventh. JaCoby Jones had taken over for Harold Castro in center field after Willi Castro left the game after getting hit by a pitch to the right elbow in the fourth inning. Harold Castro moved to second base. The final out of the seventh was a patented Jones robbery as he cruised to the wall and leapt to pull back a would-be home run ball off the bat of Jose Marmolejos.
Michael Fulmer got the call in the eighth for matchup reasons, as manager A.J. Hinch saved Gregory Soto for the lefties in the ninth. Fulmer got into a little trouble, but eventually just reared back and blew away Seager before shattering Tom Murphy’s bat with another angry fastball for an easy pop-out to end the inning.
The Tigers weren’t quite done scoring yet either. JaCoby Jones singled with one out in the ninth and moved to second on a Robbie Grossman ground out. Harold Castro stepped to the dish, and once again spanked a fastball into the outfield to score Jones. He finished with three singles and three RBI out of the second spot in the Tigers lineup.
It was no longer a save situation, but Soto was warm, and he quickly dispatched the Mariners to wrap up the victory.
Overall, it was just a really consistent, well played game. Skubal had his shaky moments, but pulled through to post a good line. The bullpen had little trouble, and the offense kept tacking on runs. Good recipe.