Detroit — The Tigers started the day comfortably with five available outfielders. By the third inning, two of them were out of the game and destined for the injured list.
Makes it tough to enjoy a series sweep when you keep getting bitten by a snake.
“We feel like we’re in a good place and we’re getting better,” manager AJ Hinch said after the Tigers completed the sweep with a 5-1 win over the Orioles at Comerica Park Sunday. “It’s one step in front…but we have a ways to go to feel really good.”
Austin Meadows, who has been battling vertigo and was making his first start in three days, lasted one plate appearance. He fouled out to the catcher in the first inning and was removed from the game.
“Austin reported continued symptoms — light-headed, dizziness, nausea,” Hinch said. “He just didn’t feel right. We’ve got to get to the bottom of this. I feel for him. He’s worked his tail off. He’s been patient. But it’s something we need to get to the bottom of.”
Victor Reyes, just activated off the injured list Sunday after spending three weeks healing a left quad strain, aggravated his right quad running out a double in his first at-bat in the second inning.
“It’s almost a mirror of what happened to his left quad,” Hinch said. “He’s going to be out a bit.”
Impossible, right? With four of the starting pitchers on the injured list, too? Come on. Hinch said both Meadows and Reyes will go on the IL. Right-hander Alex Faedo will be activated and start for the Tigers in Tampa Monday.
It wasn’t immediately known how the Tigers would fill the second open roster spot.
Fortunately for the home team, starting pitcher Tarik Skubal and resident icon Miguel Cabrera were solid as rocks Sunday. Cabrera homered and knocked in a pair of runs while Skubal keep putting up zeroes and the Tigers have their first three-game winning streak of the season.
“Everybody was frustrated (with the slow start), don’t get me wrong,” said catcher Tucker Barnhart, who contributed two singles. “Maybe not outwardly, but we were all trying to figure out what was going on. But this weekend we played so clean and so well, good at-bats, good defense, pitched it well — this is how we’re going to have to play moving forward to win games.
“Grind them out.”
Cabrera, hitting .347 in May, smoked a 93-mph fastball from Orioles starter Tyler Wells leading off the second inning and hit it 412 feet into the visitor’s bullpen in left-center. It was his second homer in three days.
In the third inning, after Javier Baez sliced a double into the corner in right field and advanced to third on a single by Willi Castro (who replaced Meadows), Cabrera lofted a sacrifice fly to center, his ninth RBI this month.
Cabrera added a single in the eighth inning and was 6 for 10 in the series with four RBIs. According to FanGraphs, since last June, Cabrera is hitting .287 with 20 doubles and 14 homers. His career homer total stands at 505 and his hit total is at 3,020, tied with Rafael Palmeiro for 29th all-time..
“Miggy is playing well, but it takes a lot more than one guy to get us to this point,” Hinch said. “But clearly he’s been a spark for us. He’s swinging the bat well, swinging at strikes, getting in good counts and driving the ball.
“It’s a nice spark and the other at-bats are starting to pick up. Whether that’s a reflection of everybody settling down when guys in the middle of the order are swinging the bat, I don’t know. But it’s nice to see.”
As for Skubal, it was another powerful performance, even if he was feeling under the weather.
“There’s something going around the clubhouse,” he said. “Just congestion. I was fatigued early. But I knew that coming in so I stayed hydrated and tried to conserve energy as much as possible. But I felt good, especially after what happened yesterday (bullpen eating 7.2 innings), I knew my job was to give us as many innings as I could.”
Skubal tied his career-high with 11 strikeouts and allowed only three singles in six scoreless innings. Bullying Orioles hitters with four-seam and two-seam fastballs (94 mph) and mixing in an effective blend of sliders and change-ups, he got 21 misses on 56 swings with 12 called strikes.
“Skubal has been jabbing at me every now and then about not going 100 pitches,” Hinch said. “Eduardo (Rodriguez) threw 100 pitches the other day and Skubal was the one guy that mentioned it to me.
“He wants to pitch as long as he can and I keep challenging him to be more efficient.”
Skubal threw exactly 100 pitches in his six innings Sunday, with Hinch sticking with him even after he walked back-to-back hitters in the sixth.
“I meant a lot that he let me stay in the game,” Skubal said. “But also to get out of the inning with a zero.”
He hasn’t allowed a run in 14 straight innings.
“He was on the attack from the first pitch of the at-bat,” Barnhart said. “For the majority of the season he’s been able to command his fastball in locations that are very effective for him and then mix in his slider, change-up and curve ball to protect the fastball.
“He’s been pitching so well. He’s a blast to catch. Keep it going.”
In three starts this month, Skubal has given up two earned runs in 19 innings, 25 strikeouts and five walks.
Harold Castro, getting a start at third base, singled in a run in the second inning, then tripled and scored in the seventh. He added an RBI single in the eighth.
“I’m still not going to drag the first two wins into it,” Hinch said. “We won today and that’s what’s important. He have another difficult challenge tomorrow (starting a three-game series in Tampa).
“But I certainly like what we’ve done in these three games.”
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