Just before the first pitch of tonight’s game, I sacrificed a live chicken, Pedro Cerrano-style, to make sure Detroit starter Tarik Skubal didn’t get hurt.(*)
With seven smothering innings by Skubal giving the Twins the equivalent of a “swirlie,” the Tigers managed to guarantee a series win in the long five-gamer with a 5-0 victory on Wednesday night in Detroit.
Tonight’s pitching matchup was an intriguing one: the aforementioned Skubal for the Detroiters, and Bailey “Big Fella” Ober for the Twin Cities ball club, who clocks-in at a nifty 6’9”.
Skubal, as you know, has had a sensational season so far, with a 2.44 ERA in nine starts coming into tonight. He’s slashed his home run rate, trimmed his walk rate, and kept his strikeout rate a bit above one per inning, just where we like it. Heck, that 2.44 ERA might even be a bit high, as his FIP was even lower, a scant 2.04. Also of note was his 1.026 WHIP, which is mighty fine.
From an innings-limited rookie season last year to this year, Ober’s numbers have improved as well, also cutting down on the home runs, but seeing his walk and strikeout rates worsen. His WHIP has stayed right around 1.2, a tick higher than you’d like to see in a starter, but not too shabby. Since he’d only given up two home runs in his 27 2⁄3 innings coming into tonight, and given the Tigers’ dearth of home run power of late, you weren’t expecting to see a lot of Tigers jogging around the bases, for sure.
Turns out they didn’t need it tonight, as you can see.
The Tigers got the scoring started — don’t look now, but this was the second straight game they scored in the first inning — with a Willi Castro leadoff double; he advanced to third on a Harold Castro bunt (relax, he was probably bunting for a base hit), and a Jonathan Schoop single.
Schoop’s heating up these days; more on that below in the Notes section.
Skubal had a bit of a long first inning with 25 pitches, but managed to dial it in and have a reasonably quick second and third, with 22 total between them. If you’ll recall, in his prior outing against the Guardians, he had a whopper of a long inning and it looked like it might be a short day for him, but like tonight, he ratcheted things down and lasted a very nice seven innings.
Ober was no slouch himself: after he allowed the run in the first inning, he settled-in and only allowed one hit from the second through the fourth.
In the fifth, though, the Tigers were “kickin’ up their heels,” as Ernie Harwell might’ve suggested: after a leadoff triple by Jeimer Candelario, Tucker Barnhart hit a grounder that clanked off second baseman Jorge Polanco’s glove, allowing Candelario to score. A one-out single by Willi Castro pushed Barnhart up to second, and a Harold Castro double into the left field corner was the big hit, scoring Willi and Barnhart.
A ground-rule double by Schoop made the score 5-0 at the end of the fifth.
Skubal, meanwhile, cruised through the seventh, with a fantastic final line: seven innings, two very softly-struck hits, one walk and six strikeouts. A dominating performance which, frankly, we’ve gotten a little bit used-to around here. Not taking anything for granted, of course. But, isn’t this nice? (Yes. This is nice.)
“Not Just Hittin’” Harold Castro caught some air and made a nice play to end the seventh, and thus close out Skubal’s evening with a bang. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a clip of said play at press time, so this should suffice.
Joe Jiménez came on for Skubal in the eighth and just blew the doors off the Twins, with a pair of strikeouts and a lineout to shallow centre, touching 96 mph on his fastball. Don’t look now, but in 19 innings over 20 outings, Jiménez now has a nifty 2.84 ERA, with 22 strikeouts against five walks and just two homers allowed.
Will Vest pitched a 1-2-3 ninth, and my goodness, that was a dominant victory.
The best part, though: this game lasted two hours and thirteen minutes. Wow.
Somebody Get Us a Doctor
With apologies to Van Halen, take a look at this.
Stupid, indeed. But at least that Van Halen song’s pretty great.
Notes and Goings-On
- (*) I’m kidding, obviously. I didn’t sacrifice a live chicken. I sacrificed a rubber chicken. But it looks like I was close enough.
- From May 13 through the end of Tuesday’s doubleheader, Jonathan Schoop had a slash line of .266/.314/.516 for an OPS of .830. Part of this might be a BABIP of .275, which is much improved from his .169 mark from the start of the season through May 12. Plus, he had a multi-hit game tonight, which is nice.
- Kody Clemens started Game 2 last night at second base, and he made his second start tonight in left field. I really wonder what the last time was that anyone made that combination of starts as the first two of their career. (Paging Dr. Wilson, Dr. GWilson.)
- Happy 96th birthday to both Andy Griffith and Marilyn Monroe. Yep, they were born on exactly the same day. No word yet if they were actually twins that were separated at birth.