Tarik Skubal roughed up in fourth as Detroit Tigers drop series finale, 6-0, to Blue Jays

Detroit Free Press

Tarik Skubal cruised through three innings, as he has done so many times this year.

Toronto didn’t hit a ball in the air in those frames — the Blue Jays produced four groundouts (including a double play), three strikeouts and one runner caught stealing — and the Detroit Tigers‘ ace seemed to be locked in.

Then the fourth inning happened.

The Jays ambushed Skubal for five hits (four for extra bases): a leadoff single by Bo Bichette, a two-run home run by Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and doubles by Teoscar Hernandez, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Cavan Biggio.

It resulted in four runs as Skubal needed 34 pitches to get through the frame, and Toronto cruised to a 6-0 win in the series finale.

The loss drops the Tigers to 24-35.

““I feel like when I made the pitches where I wanted to, generally the results were in my favor,” Skubal said. “It’s a good lineup, they fouled off some good pitches and made me throw some more pitches and unfortunately missed some spots, so that’s kind of the difference.”

Skubal entered the game with a 2.33 ERA and had lasted at least six innings or more in six of his previous seven outings. But following that fourth inning, and facing the Jays’ heavily right-handed lineup, manager A.J. Hinch preferred to mix right-handed relievers rather then send Skubal out for the fifth.

Skubal threw a season-low 73 pitches.

“Tough, I mean I was exhausted coming off of it,” Skubal said. “But you know it (can be) good to have that type of adversity on the mound, you learn a lot about yourself.”

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A day for Miggy

A day that started with celebrating Miguel Cabrera’s 3,000th hit — featuring a pregame ceremony with a video narrated by his daughter in front of former manager Jim Leyland, with speeches from Tigers manager A.J. Hinch, former teammate Alex Avila and a surprise appearance from good friend and fellow Venezuelan Victor Martinez — ended with an offense wishing it could borrow some of them.

The Tigers managed just two singles with no walks and didn’t have a runner reach second base.

Sunday was also the Tigers’ eighth consecutive game without a homer; it’s the longest such streak for the franchise in a single season since the 1972 Tigers went nine games without a homer from May 10-21, 1972. (The 1989-90 Tigers had a 10-game homerless streak over the final seven outings of the ’89 season and the first three of 1990.).

Blue Jays starter Ross Stripling was in control from the start. He faced the minimum 18 batters through six innings, allowing just a single to Robbie Grossman in the third and no walks to go with four strikeouts.

“The answer is a little different for each guy,” Hinch said on whether Sunday was the result of good pitching or a team-wide slump. “Usually when a team doesn’t hit or doesn’t score, there’s very few baserunners, it’s usually some credit to the pitcher and some mistakes that you miss.

“Based on our track record this season, it’s probably a bit of both.”

Making contact

Still, the Tigers made hard contact on some balls that turned into outs.

In the third, after Grossman’s leadoff single, Spencer Torkelson ripped a 107.6 mph one-hopper to Bichette, who started a 6-4-3 double play.

In the fourth, with two outs, Austin Meadows hit what would normally be at least a double, or likely a triple, into the right-center gap at 106.4 mph. But the Blue Jays were playing a shift with four outfielders, so it became a lineout.

Then, with two outs in the sixth, it was Javier Báez who hit a 110.6 mph line drive to third that Santiago Espinal jumped and snared to take away extra bases. It had an expected batting average of .860.

Those hard-hit balls, the résumés of Báez, Grossman, Meadows and Schoop and the potential of Torkelson has the Tigers believing they can still get the offense going.

“No, no, no, no, no, I don’t think you ever accept mediocrity,” Hinch said. “These guys have track records, I believe in the track records, I believe in where guys are going and that’s what gives us optimism to come out of it.”

The Tigers have been shut out eight times through 59 games in 2022. They were shut out nine times in all of 2021.

Bullpen help

Wily Peralta entered in the fifth and lowered his ERA from 1.54 to 1.42 with two scoreless innings, with just two walks.

He was followed by Joe Jimenez in the seventh, who allowed only a single while striking out Biggio and Guerrero. In Jimenez’s past 11 outings, he has allowed one earned run on five hits and two walks while striking out 13 over 10 innings.

The Blue Jays added two more runs in the eighth. Alejandro Kirk led off with a walk against Jacob Barnes and Espinal followed with a bloop double, with an expected batting average of .010, down the right-field line.

Gurriel then added his second and third RBIs with a soft single up the middle.

Alex Lange pitched around a leadoff double in the ninth by Biggio to throw a shutout inning, finishing with strikeouts of Bichette and Guerrero.

Taking a lesson from Cabrera

Catcher Tucker Barnhart cited Cabrera as a “legend” and someone who helps keep the clubhouse loose. As for why the Tigers are struggling at the plate — they finished Sunday’s game at third-to-last in the majors with a .218 batting average and last with 30 home runs — neither Barnhart nor Cabrera had an answer for that.

Hinch has preached one game at a time, a refrain frequently repeated in the clubhouse as the hitters say it’s their job to win a ballgame the next day.

But, Cabrera noted, it can be tough not to look at the big picutre.

“It’s hard not to think (about the struggles), we just have to figure it out,” he said. “How to win games and start winning series.”

Contact Tony Garcia at apgarcia@freepress.com. Follow him on twitter at @realtonygarcia.

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