Tarik Skubal finishes season, offense grinds in Detroit Tigers’ 10-7 win vs. Twins

Detroit Free Press

MINNEAPOLIS — Detroit Tigers manager AJ Hinch granted rookie Casey Mize a fourth inning in Wednesday’s game, allowing him to surpass the 150-inning milestone to conclude his first full season.

Fellow rookie Tarik Skubal received the same opportunity.

But Skubal couldn’t reach the mark, falling short at 149⅓ innings over 31 games (29 starts) in the completion of his first full year in the big leagues. Pitching under strict workload restrictions since the beginning of September, Skubal has been limited to three or four innings.

“Obviously it’s not the way I wanted to have my last outing this season go, just from a progression standpoint,” Skubal said. “The way I was executing pitches for the last three, four months, it didn’t show tonight for whatever reason.”

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The Minnesota Twins tagged the 24-year-old left-hander for three home runs to produce five runs against him. But the Tigers were relentless at the plate and outlasted the Twins in Thursday’s 10-7 win in the series finale at Target Field.

The Tigers (76-83) snapped a four-game losing streak.

“The wins have been hard to come by this week,” Hinch said. “We’ve played some really tough games. This is another example of us hanging in there when we fell behind a couple of times. (Josh) Donaldson hits the big homer, we come back. (Byron) Buxton hits the homer, we come back. The tying run is at the plate, (Michael) Fulmer makes a pitch.

“I don’t know how to characterize them, but I know we like it when it happens. We’ve done this a few times. I don’t care whether you’re in it or not, the losses take a toll on you after a few in a row.”

The Tigers and Twins went back and forth throughout Thursday’s game until the Tigers capitalized on a three-run eighth inning.

Walks from Jonathan Schoop and Jeimer Candelario created an opportunity for Harold Castro, who doubled for a 7-7 tie. Dustin Garneau (sacrifice fly to center field) and Willi Castro (RBI single to right field) stepped up with exceptional situational hitting to make it a 9-7 game.

“Those guys need credit for putting up good at-bats when the game’s on the line,” Hinch said. “At the time, it feels like you can breathe a little bit. As the game progressed, we get to the ninth inning, how big were those swings then? We really needed room for Fulmer to end the game.”

Schoop added his 22nd home run in the ninth inning for a three-run lead.

How it happened

Carrying a one-run lead, reliever Drew Hutchison — Skubal’s replacement — gave up a leadoff single to Max Kepler in the sixth inning. Kepler advanced to third on back-to-back flyouts, so Hinch turned to Kyle Funkhouser, one of his most reliable relievers, to get the third out.

Instead, Luis Arraez singled to tie the game at six runs. The seventh inning featured Buxton’s second home run, giving the Twins a 7-6 lead. Funkhouser’s command faltered and — after 34 pitches (17 strikes) — rookie Alex Lange took over.

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Slugger Miguel Sano looked to create damage with two on and two out, but Lange dished out three consecutive changeups. Looking for a fastball, Sano swung and missed at all three for an inning-ending strikeout.

“When we quickened up his delivery, it allowed his arm to work,” Hinch said. “He’s got a quick arm, and that helps the changeup. The velocity off his fastball is pretty effective. … When he got sent down, we needed more strikes and a faster delivery. He did both of those in Triple-A (Toledo), and when he got back, he’s seeing positive results.”

After the Tigers grabbed a 9-7 lead, Lange returned to the mound for the bottom of the eighth. He pitched a perfect inning and finished with two strikeouts over his 1⅓ innings, throwing 13 of 19 pitches for strikes.

Fulmer notched his 13th save in the ninth.

Skubal’s finale

The Twins gave Skubal trouble from the third pitch they saw, as Buxton cranked a 94 mph four-seam fastball over the left-field wall.

His woes continued when he conceded a three-run homer to Donaldson — on a 96 mph two-seam fastball — in the third inning for Minnesota’s 4-1 advantage.

“I wanted to elevate it a little more than I did, and then it came back over the plate,” Skubal said of Donaldson’s home run. “There’s two outs, two strikes. I worked really hard to get a zero, then there’s three (runs) on the board. It completely changes the outing from my perspective.”

The Tigers scored four runs in the fourth frame, but the Twins countered with another home run. This time, Brent Rooker’s solo blast on a 95 mph four-seamer evened the score at five runs.

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The home runs from Buxton (426 feet), Donaldson (422 feet) and Rooker (414 feet) totaled 1,262 feet. Skubal allowed 35 home runs in his 149⅓ innings. He gave up nine homers across 32 innings during last year’s MLB debut campaign.

After Rooker’s home run, Arraez doubled to right field and chased Skubal — just two outs shy of 150 innings.

“I sent him out for the fourth inning hoping that he could finish on a higher note and a little bit better, especially after the punch before,” Hinch said. “He just didn’t look like he was very crisp. It sucks for him that the season ends that way, because he pitched a lot better in September than this last one’s going to feel.”

Skubal suffered five runs on six hits, one walk and one strikeout, throwing 34 of 54 pitches for strikes. He turned to 15 four-seam fastballs (28%), 14 sliders (26%), 13 two-seamers (13%), nine changeups (17%) and three curveballs (6%). Skubal is known for generating swings and misses, but he only got four whiffs.

He ends his rookie season with a 4.34 ERA, 47 walks and 164 strikeouts.

Goodrum goes yard — twice

Niko Goodrum didn’t miss his chances to crush fastballs off Twins right-hander Joe Ryan. He clobbered a solo home run in the third inning and a three-run homer in the fourth.

Both blasts over the right-center wall were a product of staying patient and waiting for a fastball to drive. Goodrum’s performance marked the third multi-homer game of his career. (The last occurred May 31, 2019, against the Braves in Atlanta.)

“The pregame preparation was good,” Goodrum said. “You had an idea of what to expect from him, and when you get in there, you actually see what his heater is doing and his other pitches are doing. You can tell from the reports that he likes his heater. … I just tried to stay on top of him and catch him out front to put some good swings on it.”

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Entering Thursday, Ryan had a 2.45 ERA, three walks and 25 strikeouts over the first four MLB games of his career. The Twins acquired the 25-year-old from the Tampa Bay Rays as part of the Nelson Cruz trade in July 2021.

Once the Tigers were done with him, Ryan’s ERA ballooned to 4.05. He endured six runs on six hits and two walks with five strikeouts. He retired the first six batters before Goodrum’s solo homer tied the game, 1-1, in the third inning.

Before Goodrum’s three-run home run, Harold Castro doubled to the left-field corner to trim the deficit to two runs in the fourth inning. Goodrum put the Tigers on top, 5-4, with his ninth homer this season. His swings off Ryan traveled a combined 843 feet.

Playing his 1,000th career game, Schoop extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a double in the fourth. He also gave the Tigers a 6-5 lead with his RBI single in the fifth to chase Ryan from his outing.

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

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