DETROIT — The last time the Tigers swept the Yankees in a three-game series in Motown, C.J. Nitkowski, Jeff Weaver and Dave Mlicki were the winning pitchers, and Comerica Park had just opened.
That was 2000, and it ended up being a blip for a Detroit team that had already dug itself too deep of a hole. Time will tell whether this weekend’s sweep of the Bronx Bombers marks a turning point for these Tigers, but for the starting pitchers, it could be a glimpse of the future.
Not only did Skubal retire the top of the Yankees’ lineup in order on eight pitches in the top of the third, he made it look easy against a group of hitters that roughed him up exactly one month ago in the Bronx.
Skubal’s 1-0 curveball twisted DJ LeMahieu into a groundout to short, maybe LeMahieu’s easiest out of the series.
Up came Giancarlo Stanton, who had hit Skubal’s fastball for a 115.7 mph double off Yankee Stadium’s right-field wall a month ago and walked in his first at-bat Sunday. Stanton swung and missed at a first-pitch changeup at the top of the zone, then chased a high fastball for an 0-2 hole. Skubal buried a curveball that Stanton flailed at for a filthy three-pitch strikeout.
That brought up Aaron Judge, whose home run to center summed up Skubal’s rough April night in the Bronx but whose double-play grounder helped Skubal escape Sunday’s first inning. This time, Skubal opened with a curveball on the outside corner and a fastball over the plate, both for called strikes. Skubal finished him off with a slider at Judge’s back foot as the All-Star slugger swung through it.
The Tigers scored four runs in the bottom of the inning with help from two Gleyber Torres errors. Skubal took the mound for the fourth with a six-run lead and Torres slamming his glove in the visiting dugout.
Skubal retired 13 of his final 15 batters, finishing with six scoreless innings on three hits with three walks and eight strikeouts. He became the first Tigers rookie in franchise history to strike out eight or more batters in three consecutive starts, according to Elias Sports Bureau, and the first Major League rookie to do it since Domingo Germán for the Yankees in June 2018.