Skubal starts fast, but finds trouble late

Detroit Tigers

MINNEAPOLIS — For nearly five innings, Tarik Skubal looked like he was playing catch, and Twins hitters were bystanders. By the eighth, the Tigers looked like they had missed an opportunity.

It wasn’t just the 13 batters that Skubal retired in order to begin Thursday’s series opener at Target Field, but the baserunners the Tigers compiled against Twins starter J.A. Happ. After a pair of double plays denied Detroit a chance of add-on runs, Miguel Sano’s game-tying home run fueled a three-run Twins seventh, sending the Tigers to a 5-3 loss and Skubal to his first defeat since May 25.

Skubal worked so quickly, so easily through the Twins order for four innings, the Target Field sound crew barely had time to play sound effects between his pitches. Skubal was ready for his next pitch almost as soon as he would get a ball back from catcher Jake Rogers. Before the Twins could look, Skubal had worked through their lineup over three perfect innings in 34 pitches, including eight swings and misses and four strikeouts.

Eric Haase’s two-run homer in the top of the fourth and sliding catch on Nelson Cruz’s line drive in the bottom of the inning supported Skubal on what looked like a dominant night.

Ryan Jeffers’ line drive over the left-field seats on Skubal’s 3-2 fastball — his first three-ball count of the night — broke up any perfect-game dreams, but Minnesota still struggled to mount any consistent offense. Skubal’s fastball was sitting at 94-95 mph while topping out at 96, and his slider induced six swings and misses.

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