Pirates 6, Tigers 3: Bullpen meltdown costs Detroit

Bless You Boys

The Tigers were down early, roared back, and then watched the game slip away in a rough seventh inning as the Pirates took game one by a score of 6-3 on Monday.

Tarik Skubal got the start, but as with Casey Mize, these are going to be short outings the rest of the way as both pitchers are well beyond their previous highs in terms of workload. One mistake early on was enough to spoil his outing.

The Tigers threatened in the top of the first, as Akil Baddoo and Robbie Grossman singled, and Jonathan Schoop popped out. Unfortunately, Jeimer Candelario squared one up right to the Pirates’ shortstop and Eric Haase struck out to end the inning.

Skubal allowed a leadoff single to Ke’Bryan Hayes in the bottom of the first. Kevin Newman got a center cut fastball in an 0-1 count and smoked it to left-center field for a two-run shot. Skubal got the next hitter, but Yoshi Tsutsugo and Jacob Stallings followed with singles. Fortunately Skubal punched out Anthony Alford and got Ben Gamel to ground out and end the inning.

The Tigers had a good chance to bounce right back in the top of the second. Niko Goodrum led off with a walk, and after Willi Castro struck out, Derek Hill singled through the left side of the infield. Tarik Skubal got the sacrifice bunt down, moving the runners to second and third, but again they were bitten by the old atom ball, as Baddoo lined out to right field to end the inning.

Over the next few innings, the Tigers’ offense struggled to muster more chances as Pirates starter Bryse Wilson settled in. Skubal too settled in, but his limits meant that he was pulled in the fourth after allowing a leadoff double to Jacob Stallings. Rookie Drew Carlton came on for his second big league appearance and did a solid job escaping damage the rest of the inning, helped by Haase cutting down Gamel trying to steal second after a single.

Both pitchers cruised through the fifth, but the Tigers finally got to Wilson in the top of the sixth, turning the tide of the game temporarily. With one out, Robbie Grossman doubled and Candelario walked. Haase came up with a lined single to right, and the bases were loaded for Goodrum who doubled off Tsutsugo’s glove and first and down the right field line to score both Grossman and Candelario. Miguel Cabrera pinch hit for Carlton and lifted a sacrifice fly to bring Haase home from third, and the Tigers led 3-2.

A.J. Hinch turned to Kyle Funkhouser in the bottom of the sixth and he made quick work of the Pirates. The Tigers had a single and a double in the top of the seventh, but a double play ball off the bat of Akil Baddoo snuffed chances for a rally.

Funkhouser came back out for the seventh and this is where everything went sideways. He walked Gamel and then balked him to second. Cole Tucker singled and was replaced by Chasen Shreve as a pinch runner. Still struggling to locate and getting too nibbly, Funkhouser proceeded to walk Colin Moran as well loading the bases for the wrong guy, Ke’Bryan Hayes. Hayes came through for Pittsburgh with a two-run single as they recaptured the lead 4-3. Funkhouser got the next two outs, but Tsutsugo came up with another two-run single to make it 6-3. Derek Holland came on to get the final out of the inning.

This makes back-to-back rough outings for Funkhouser, who hadn’t allowed earned runs in consecutive appearances since July. Mize and Skubal may not be the only young’uns in need of a reduced workload for a bit.

The Tigers went quickly in the eighth, and the Pirates turned to David Bednar in the ninth. He struck out Victor Reyes, Derek Hill, and Harold Castro in succession to wrap up the Pirates’ victory with emphasis.

The Tigers will send Wily Peralta to the mound to start on Tuesday night. First pitch is set for 6:35 p.m. EDT.

Meanwhile, the Tigers have been dealing with a COVID outbreak. The whole team and staff got vaccinated at the beginning of the season, so probably no cause for concern on the actual health front, but bench coach George Lombard and reliever Joe Jiménez tested positive on Monday morning. They’ll be away from the team for at least 10 days. Coaches Chris Fetter and Josh Paul, as well as bullpen catcher Jeremy Carol will be quarantined this week as part of the contact tracing protocol. While we’ve watched a parade of other teams deal with missing players constantly throughout the season, this is the first time the Tigers have had to deal with it since the early weeks of the 2021 season. Expect them to call up a few members of the Mud Hens’ bullpen prior to Tuesday’s contest.

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