Detroit Tigers swept by Kansas City Royals in 6-1 loss as Tarik Skubal spanked early

Detroit Free Press

Rookie left-hander Tarik Skubal put the Detroit Tigers behind from the start.

The first four Kansas City Royals he faced damaged him by tagging his fastball: Whit Merrifield doubled, Carlos Santana singled, Salvador Perez crushed a 454-foot three-run home run and Jorge Soler followed with a 425-foot solo blast.

“Maybe one too many fastballs to Whit, but I also didn’t execute,” Skubal said. “That led to the double. I felt like I made some good pitches to Santana in the second at-bat, and he fisted one into right field. And then a three-run bomb and another home run.”

The Tigers (47-54) trailed by four runs and never put up a fight. They were beaten 6-1 in Sunday’s series finale at Kauffman Stadium and swept in three games, losing 5-3 Friday and 9-8 Saturday before the latest debacle.

After winning their first seven games coming out of the All-Star break, the Tigers have dropped three in a row. They complete the six-game road trip with a three-game slate against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field from Monday-Wednesday.

“I didn’t do my job, which is putting our team in a position to win,” Skubal said. “That’s what I want to do every time I take the ball, just do my best to get a win at the end of the day. And I didn’t do that today. There wasn’t any added pressure. I just didn’t do my job. I got punched in the mouth early, and that was the difference.”

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In the third inning, Soler belted his second home run of the game — a 428-foot solo shot to left — to give the Royals a 5-0 lead. The three homers against Skubal totaled 1,307 feet, but he found a way to complete five innings.

“They ambushed him, and we didn’t really recover until late,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said. “We had a couple opportunities to chip back into the game, and we came up short. Their aggressiveness on (Skubal’s) fastball early, they did a lot of damage with it. The only thing they did against him was damage.”

The bullpen started strong, thanks to right-hander Erasmo Ramirez’s scoreless sixth inning. Lefty Derek Holland took over the seventh and gave up an RBI single to Jarrod Dyson. The Royals’ first three batters reached to make it 6-0, but Holland escaped by striking out Merrifield and getting Santana to bounce into a double play.

Left-hander Ian Krol pitched a perfect eighth inning, striking out Soler and Hunter Dozier.

Scoring late

Jonathan Schoop doubled to begin the ninth, extending his hitting streak to 15 games, and scored on Eric Haase’s single into center field to cut the deficit to 6-1. The Tigers continued to work reliever Ervin Santana — who replaced 24-year-old starter Daniel Lynch after eight scoreless innings — with Miguel Cabrera’s single to left field.

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The Royals replaced Santana with lefty Jake Brentz. He needed 11 pitches to record three outs: Jeimer Candelario struck out swinging and Robbie Grossman grounded into a game-ending double play.

Skubal settles down

After Kansas City’s early four-run ambush, Skubal retired three straight batters to escape the inning without further trouble. He retired 15 of the final 16 batters he faced to carry him through the conclusion of his outing.

A mound visit from pitching coach Chris Fetter in the first inning helped Skubal get comfortable.

“Fett came out there was like, ‘Let’s just be aggressive. Just continue to be aggressive. You can’t go back in time and change what has already happened,'” Skubal said. “That was the mindset for me going forward. I can’t reverse time and take the four runs off the board, but just continue to attack and eat innings.”

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Soler was the lone batter to disrupt Skubal’s success. His two-out home run in the third inning came on a 98 mph fastball.

The 24-year-old allowed five runs on five hits — all from fastballs — and zero walks with four strikeouts over five innings. He recorded 11 swings and misses but picked up just one whiff with his four-seam fastball. He got four whiffs with his slider, three with his two-seam fastball and three with his changeup.

Skubal threw 60 of 88 pitches for strikes.

“I threw a lot of changeups not even close to the zone,” Skubal said. “I need to have better quality, consistent changeups to keep all those righties at bay. There’s eight of them in that lineup, and I get one lefty. Just being able to throw the changeup for a strike and then expand.

“Once I started working sliders in there more, executing that first pitch and dictating the count that I was throwing offspeed (pitches) for strikes, the results changed dramatically. That’s just a learning point for me.”

A different Lynch

The last time Lynch pitched in the big leagues, he faced the Tigers on May 13 at Comerica Park. He allowed four runs (three earned) on seven hits and only made it through 2⅔ innings. Following a long stay in Triple-A Omaha, the rookie returned for a rematch.

This time, Lynch was dominant.

Lynch fired eight scoreless innings, throwing 65 of 95 pitches for strikes. He gave up five hits without a walk and struck out four. It was his fourth MLB appearance and the best start of his career. The Royals selected him No. 34 overall in the 2018 draft.

“We saw a completely different pitcher today than the one we saw earlier in the season,” Hinch said. “I know he’s a top prospect. They have a lot of hopes for him, and today he showed why. He’s got good stuff and was in control of the game.”

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The Tigers created two scoring opportunities against Lynch, but they came up short both times.

In the second, Grossman’s single and Willi Castro’s double with two outs put a pair of runners in scoring position. The hit from Castro dropped into center field, but he used aggressiveness on the bases to turn a single into a double. Zack Short grounded out to shortstop, ending the inning.

The Tigers waited until the sixth inning to threaten again, as Derek Hill and Akil Baddoo opened the frame with singles. Schoop spoiled their efforts by grounding into a double play. Still, Hill stood at third base.

But Haase struck out swinging.

“Pretty good fastball,” Hinch said of Lynch. “He had swing-and-miss secondary stuff. He pounded the strike zone quite a bit, especially early in the count. We had a couple opportunities where a hit would have chipped away at the lead and maybe put a little more pressure on him, but he continued to make pitches.”

Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzoldRead more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter

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