Detroit Tigers melt away in fourth inning, lose to Kansas City Royals, 5-2

Detroit Free Press

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — In the third inning, Detroit Tigers left-hander Tarik Skubal fired the fastest pitch of his career — a 99.8 mph two-seam fastball on the outside edge of the strike zone against MJ Melendez.

The result: A strikeout looking for the third out.

“That’s the best fastball I’ve had in my life,” Skubal said. “I felt like I had really good stuff today. I executed pitches. Just some unfortunate things happened.”

The fourth inning wasn’t kind to Skubal, as the Royals recorded several weak hits and took advantage of defensive mistakes to score four runs. The Tigers lost, 5-2, in Wednesday’s series finale at Kauffman Stadium.

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The Tigers (37-52) were on the losing end in three of four games in the series, including getting swept in Monday’s doubleheader. They are 1½ games ahead of the last-place Royals in the American League Central.

“I don’t like losing,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “That’s a winnable game. We didn’t do enough with our opportunities. You’d like to get a little bit more early, and then we made a mess of the inning in the fourth. One error but four miscues. Hard to win games when you do that.”

Six straight Royals reached safely with one out in the fourth inning. Only one of those players — Emmanuel Rivera’s 306-foot RBI double — hit the ball beyond 70 feet.

Most plays should have been easy outs, based on the eye-test and analytics: Andrew Benintendi (single, .220 expected batting average), Hunter Dozier (single, .140 xBA), Rivera (double, .380 xBA), Vinnie Pasquantino (fielder’s choice, .150 xBA), Edward Olivares (fielding error, .440 xBA) and Kyle Isbel (single, .140 xBA).

“Don’t question the effort,” Hinch said. “The effort has been fine. I think the execution was rough. These are plays that can be made. … At the end of the day, you won or you lost. We lost.”

Among the defensive miscues, the most costly was second baseman Jonathan Schoop’s fielding error with the bases loaded. Had Schoop fielded the ball cleanly, he would have turned an inning-ending double play.

Instead, the bullet off Edward Olivares’ bat skipped past Schoop — the best defensive infielder in baseball this season — and the Royals turned a tie game into a 3-1 advantage. Two batters later, Nicky Lopez’s sacrifice fly made it 4-1.

Schoop has three errors this season, but he is worth plus-seven defensive runs saved and plus-21 outs above average.

“That’s the game of baseball,” Skubal said. “Like, what am I going to do? I have no control over it, except for the one I didn’t field to start that whole thing. There’s no point in getting frustrated.”

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Skubal allowed five runs (four earned runs) on eight hits, throwing 70 of 94 pitches for strikes. He struck out five batters and didn’t conceded a walk, his first outing without a walk since June 7.

Offense comes up empty

The Tigers had enough opportunities to win.

Detroit’s offense drove in two runs despite eight hits and six walks, finished 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position and, once again, failed to produce game-changing hits. Akil Baddoo struck out swinging on a full-count slider to leave the bases juiced in the sixth inning.

It was Royals right-hander Brady Singer’s final pitch.

“Our guys are trying,” Hinch said. “They’re not giveaway at-bats. It’s hard to execute every single time. Baddoo worked a really good at-bat and then just chased 3-2. Those guys won the big battles. That’s the frustrating part. They won and we didn’t.”

In the first, the Tigers loaded the bases with no outs, thanks to Riley Greene (single), Victor Reyes (double) and Javier Báez (walk). They had one run to show on Harold Castro’s sacrifice fly. His sac fly was sandwiched between outs from Schoop and Jeimer Candelario.

“Whenever that happens, it’s tough,” catcher Tucker Barnhart said. “He made some good pitches to get out of those jams. You got to credit him. We put ourselves in a position to score but just couldn’t get it done today.”

In the fourth, Schoop and Castro opened the frame with back-to-back singles, but the next three batters — Candelario, Spencer Torkelson and Baddoo — were sent down. Two innings later, in the sixth, Báez (single), Castro (walk) and Candelario (walk) loaded the bases against Singer with one out.

But Singer produced back-to-back strikeouts to conclude his outing. Torkelson, a right-handed hitter, chased a down-and-away slider, and Baddoo, a lefty hitter, whiffed at a down-and-in slider.

Singer allowed one run on seven hits and five walks with six strikeouts in six innings. The 25-year-old threw 61 of 105 pitches for strikes. He racked up 10 swings and misses, including seven with his slider.

“He battles glove-side with us,” Hinch said. “He throws the hard slider and the fastball. He didn’t throw a ton of changeups, but he does threaten the left-handed hitters inside. He kept us on the ground a little bit more as the game went on. He’s been tough on us.”

In the seventh, Báez’s RBI double cut the Tigers’ deficit to 5-2.

He was stranded at second base.

Bringing the heat

For most of his outing, Skubal dominated the Royals. He recorded 10 outs against the first 11 batters, retiring three in a row in a 10-pitch second inning and three in a row in an 11-pitch third.

Poor defense ruined an otherwise strong outing.

The third at-bat in the third was most impressive, as Skubal reached back to hit 99 mph, 98.5 mph and 99.8 mph on the radar gun. Since 2015, the 99.8 mph two-seam fastball is tied with Justin Verlander for the fastest pitch thrown by a Tigers starting pitcher.

“I just felt really good,” Skubal said. “I was really synced up. Maybe the weather. It was hot, so the body was kind of naturally loose. I felt good, but other than that, I don’t really know what it was.”

The Royals scored their final run in the fifth for a 5-1 lead on Dozier’s RBI triple.

For his 94 pitches, Skubal used 30 sliders (32%), 25 two-seam fastballs (27%), 22 four-seam fastballs (23%), 15 changeups (16%) and two curveballs (2%). He got 12 swings and misses and 13 called strikes.

“I thought he had his best fastball today, which obviously makes everything else better,” Barnhart said. “His changeup was really good. He was able to throw it left-on-left, which he doesn’t do a ton, but he did today. The slider was back to normal.”

Right-hander Drew Carlton pitched the seventh and eighth innings.

Contact Evan Petzold at or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.

Next up: Guardians

Matchup: Tigers (37-52) at Cleveland (43-43 entering Wednesday).

First pitch: 7:10 p.m. Thursday; Progressive Field, Cleveland.

TV/radio: Bally Sports Detroit; WXYT-FM (97.1).

Probable pitchers: Tigers — RHP Elvin Rodriguez (0-2, 11.51 ERA); Royals — RHP Triston McKenzie (6-6, 3.47).

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