Jonathan Schoop continues to deliver for the Detroit Tigers.
He launched his 14th home run of the season, a three-run blast to left field, to cap a six-run fourth inning. The veteran infielder used his bat to help the Tigers chase St. Louis Cardinals starter Johan Oviedo and open the homestand with a victory.
The Tigers (31-42) maintained the momentum from Schoop’s home run, leading to a 8-2 win Tuesday at Comerica Park.
“We’re happy to be home,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said. “It was a nice bounce-back win on Sunday, had the off-day yesterday, and I think that gave us a little bit of momentum coming into today. A lot of good things today out of our offense, obviously some big swings. We played a little bit of big ball, played a little bit of small ball.”
The second of two games with St. Louis begins at 1:10 p.m. Wednesday, before the Houston Astros travel to Detroit for a four-game slate from Thursday through Sunday. Rookie right-hander Matt Manning is starting Wednesday’s contest.
Miguel Cabrera left the game after the fourth inning with calf tightness. Hinch said after the game that Cabrera was “day-to-day.” Schoop shifted to first base in his absence, and Isaac Paredes came off the bench to take Schoop’s spot at second.
Tigers starter Tarik Skubal exited after 4⅔ innings and 97 pitches. He allowed two runs on four hits and two walks, with four strikeouts. Following his departure, four relievers held the Cardinals scoreless for the final 4⅓ innings: Kyle Funkhouser (1⅓ innings), Bryan Garcia (1 inning), Buck Farmer (1 inning) and Daniel Norris (1 inning).
The new normal
Skubal walked toward the dugout after the top of the first inning and was interrupted by home plate umpire Joe West. He knew the mandatory check was coming, so he removed his hat and handed it to the umpire.
West checked the inside of Skubal’s hat before inspecting his glove and belt.
As of Monday, pitchers are subject to ejection and suspension if they’re caught using foreign substances. The suspension is for 10 days (with pay), and the team cannot replace the suspended player on the roster.
“I think everybody’s on board with doing this,” Hinch said. “I don’t think the umpires are necessarily hunting as if they’re interrogating these guys. They’re looking for somebody that’s overstepping out of bounds. I thought it went about as expected. You see guys volunteering things right away when they come off the mound, so I think everybody understands it’s part of the game now.”
Because the Tigers didn’t play Monday, Skubal was the team’s first player to be checked for sticky substances. His hat, glove and belt were searched again following the top of the second inning.
After Skubal walked Paul DeJong with two outs in the second inning, he retired seven batters in a row to reach the fifth. But he needed 18 pitches in the first inning, 28 pitches in the second, 20 pitches in the third, 10 pitches in the fourth and 21 pitches for two outs in the fifth.
“He was struggling with his secondary a little bit today,” Tigers catcher Jake Rogers said. “He was struggling to find the zone and finish through me. There were glimpses through there. He didn’t have his best stuff. He might’ve had his B-game or C-game, but he did with what he had, went out and battled.”
His perfect third inning featured lengthy at-bats against Tommy Edman (nine pitches) and Dylan Carlson (seven pitches). Skubal’s fourth inning, however, was much better. He retired Nolan Arenado with two pitches, struck out Tyler O’Neill with five pitches and got Yadier Molina to fly out with three pitches.
Skubal blanked the Cards until the fifth, when Lars Nootbaar’s sacrifice fly and Paul Goldschmidt’s single drove in two runs. Goldschmidt’s hit chased Skubal, who tossed 62 of 97 pitches for strikes.
Funkhouser needed three pitches to get Arenado out to conclude the fifth.
Offense strikes in fourth
The Tigers scored their first run on a 21-foot ground ball from Nomar Mazara. Although the ball bounced to the pitcher, Oviedo threw past third while attempting to cut down Akil Baddoo.
Oviedo’s error allowed Baddoo to score for a 1-0 lead, and Mazara advanced all the way to third base. Back-to-back walks from Willi Castro and Harold Castro loaded the bases for Rogers, who cranked a double to the left-field corner.
Rogers made contact after two swinging strikes — a four-seam fastball and a slider — put him in an 0-2 count. He launched a hanging slider for two runs and a 3-0 lead.
Then, Schoop’s homer pushed the Tigers’ lead to 6-0.
“Oh, it’s awesome. It’s been really fun to watch,” Rogers said about Schoop. “He’s incredible. He’s red-hot, and he’s helping the guys push runs in and helping us win.”
Schoop entered Tuesday with a .345 batting average (51-for-148) and 11 home runs, 26 RBIs, 14 walks and 27 strikeouts in his past 37 games, from May 11-June 20.
An ensuing single from Jeimer Candelario chased Oviedo with two outs in the fourth inning. He gave up six runs (two earned) on six hits and three walks. Facing reliever Daniel Ponce de Leon, Cabrera grounded out to shortstop to end the fourth.
Rogers shows up
After doubling in the fourth inning, Rogers tripled to the warning track in center field in the fifth to score Willi Castro and give the Tigers an 8-2 lead. The inning started with a leadoff double from Baddoo. He came around to score on Harold Castro’s sacrifice bunt.
Rogers’ second triple this season came on a 1-2 two-seam fastball from Cardinals reliever Andrew Miller with two outs.
“I hit second and was like, ‘Man, I gotta hit another gear here,'” Rogers said. “I’m sure my legs and arms were flailing everywhere. Just trying to get my speed up.”
Hinch added: “Jake can do some things, and they seem to come in bunches for him. He contributed on both sides of the ball tonight. I thought he really called a good game, went through our bullpen and got guys through some innings. Job well done for him.”
He finished 2-for-4 with three RBIs, along with a strong catching performance. Schoop picked up two hits in his five at-bats, adding three RBIs. The Tigers went 3-for-10 with runners in scoring position.
Schoop, Baddoo, Rogers and Candelario logged two-hit performances. Willi Castro finished 1-for-2 with two walks.
“It wasn’t just me,” Rogers said. “The guys are up there hitting like crazy, having great at bats. The bullpen did a great job. Skub did a great job with what he had. That’s all you can ask for. I’m happy with what I did, so it was good.”
Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.