Tarik Skubal became the first American League pitcher to seven losses this season, joining Cincinnati’s Luis Castillo in a tie for the Major League lead. Beyond the record, however, the Tigers rookie is slowly winning the battle for progress against big league hitters.
The way Cleveland starter Aaron Civale shut down Detroit’s offense for his third win in as many meetings with the Tigers this season, Skubal had little margin for error from his second pitch Tuesday, which Cesar Hernandez lofted into the left-field seats for a leadoff home run. But Skubal’s ensuing work kept the Tigers close until Jordan Luplow’s two-run homer off Kyle Funkhouser all but sealed a 4-1 Detroit loss at Comerica Park.
What felt at season’s start like a turning of tables in the division rivalry is feeling more like the Tigers’ struggles of recent years. Cleveland has taken six in a row against Detroit, including the first two games of this series, since the Tigers put up back-to-back wins to begin the season. However, the Tigers’ starting pitching is doing its part.
Six days after Skubal racked up a career-high nine strikeouts over five innings of two-run ball in Seattle, he did it again, this time in defeat. He became the first Tigers rookie to fan nine or more batters in consecutive starts since Mark Leiter Sr. in 1991. Leiter’s son was born that year, and now pitches in the Tigers’ farm system for Double-A Erie.
Skubal struck out nearly half of his final 20 batters after Hernandez’s homer and Amed Rosario’s four-pitch walk put him on the brink of trouble from the outset. Luplow struck out three times, including on a 97.6 mph fastball for a called third strike to end the top of the third inning and a slider he chased up near the letters to strand a runner on second to end the top of the fifth on Skubal’s 93rd and final pitch.