Tarik Skubal put up another solid start, but Cleveland’s mastery over the Tigers’ offense won out again as they took this one by a score of 4-1.
Skubal was coming off a nine strikeout performance against the Seattle Mariners last week, and this outing had much in common with it. Skubal allowed a solo home run to Cesar Hernandez on the second pitch of the game, and then walked Amed Rosario on four pitches. As he has more recently, Skubal seemed to settle himself down and find his rhythm again quickly. He dispatched Jose Ramirez and Jordan Luplow on strikes after some long at-bats, then allowed a single to Eddie Rosario before getting Harold Ramirez to fly out to center to end the inning. He pitched around another single in the second inning, striking out three and getting whiffs on his slider while dropping in a nasty knuckle curve to freeze Owen Miller.
Meanwhile, through three innings, Cleveland’s Aaron Civale was dominating the Tigers just as efficiently as he did in his first two starts of the year back in early April. He got quick out after quick out, mixing in his vast repertoire to induce a ton of weak contact. The Tigers picked up singles in the first, third, and fourth, but never mounted anything approaching a scoring threat.
Skubal wasn’t doing badly either, and cruised until the fourth inning, when a leadoff single from Rosario and a Harold Ramirez double made it 2-0. Again, Skubal settled himself and quickly ran through the next three hitters, punching out catcher Austin Hedges on a high fourseamer to end the inning.
In the end, Skubal probably could’ve gone six, but at 93 pitches, it wasn’t at all surprising that his night ended after five innings. His final line was 5.0 IP, 2 ER, 6 H, BB, 9 SO. Nice seeing just one walk in there, though the occasional command issues, not to mention some long at-bats that ended in strikeouts, didn’t make for a very efficient outing. As a high spin fourseam specialist, Skubal is likely to have plenty of outings like this, a la those classic Verlander starts where he would largely dominate but find himself lifted in the fifth or sixth due to an abundance of foul balls prolonging at-bats.
Kyle Funkhouser came on and looked solid in the sixth and seventh, before giving up a two-run shot to Jordan Luplow in the eighth. Tyler Alexander cleaned up the rest of the inning with no further trouble. Derek Holland got his first work since returning from his rehab assignment, and he struck out the side in the top of the ninth.
Through six frames the Tigers didn’t have a single extra base hit, and Civale’s pitch count was still in the 70’s. Two more quick outs on six pitches in the seventh looked like another short inning incoming, but Akil Baddoo made a bid for a solo shot to deepest center field, settling for a triple instead. Unfortunately Willi Castro flew out to left to end the only threat the Tigers would muster until the ninth inning.
Civale finally ran out of gas in the ninth. Jeimer Candelario singled to right to lead off the inning, and Miguel Cabrera worked a walk, leading Terry Francona to bring in his other big late innings arm, right-hander James Karinchak. Nomar Mazara quickly struck out on three straight high 90’s fastballs on the inner edge, but Jonathan Schoop managed to spank a single back through the box to score Candelario. Baddoo put together another good AB, working a walk to load the bases. At this point, Karinchak waxed sorely pissed and took it out on Willi Castro, striking him out on four pitches. A.J. Hinch pinch hit Eric Haase for Jake Rogers, and Haase hit a routine fly out to centerfield to end the game.