Perhaps all Tarik Skubal needed was a reset.
Skubal, who was dominant in his first 11 starts this season before struggling in seven starts before the All-Star break, was at his best again on Thursday in the Detroit Tigers‘ first game back.
The lefty went six innings, allowing just one run (unearned) on two hits and two walks while striking out nine; his performance propelled the Tigers (38-55) to a 7-2 win in Game 1 of a doubleheader against the Oakland Athletics.
For a while, it looked as if a very good day might be a historic one.
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Skubal retired the first 11 batters he faced — six via strikeout — before Sean Murphy worked a 10-pitch walk.
Skubal then struck out Chad Pinder, ending the inning without having allowed a hit through four innings.
That changed in the bottom of the fifth when Seth Brown sent a high pop-up to the left side of the infield.
Jeimer Candelario attempted to shade his eyes, but lost the ball in the sky; it dropped next to him, resulting in an infield double.
Eric Haase gave up a passed ball in the ensuing at bat, allowing Brown to get to third, and Stephen Piscotty scored him on a sacrifice fly.
Skubal induced 17 swings and misses on the day — six on his slider, five on the fastball and three each on his sinker and changeup — as he went at least six innings for the third straight start.
What little contact the A’s made wasn’t hard, with an average exit velocity of just 86.4 mph.
Thursday was Skubal’s first start without an earned run allowed since June 1.
Grossman does the heavy lifting
By the time Skubal left the game, the Tigers already had a decent lead, thanks in large part to former Oakland outfielder Robbie Grossman.
It started in the third, when Jeimer Candelario led off with a single, followed by a two-out single from Javier Báez. Grossman then sent a 1-0 pitch just short of the wall in left, for a two-run double.
The Tigers put together another two-out push in the fifth. Riley Greene singled up the middle and Báez reached on an error by Sheldon Neuse, bringing Grossman up again.
This time, he sent a looper to center that dropped in front of a diving Skye Bolt, putting the Tigers up, 3-0.
Candelario added to the total with a leadoff home run to right-center in the seventh, extending the lead to 4-1.
But Alex Lange gae the run back in the bottom of the inning, on a leadoff home run by Brown on an 0-2 pitch.
Lange then issued a four-pitch walk to Piscotty. After a wild pitch and a single by Vimael Machin, the A’s had runners on the corners with one out, prompting a mound visit by pitching coach Chris Fetter.
Lange then struck out Nick Allen looking on a curve before getting Bolt to swing through the same pitch and escape the inning.
In the end, the Tigers poured it on.
Haase led off the eighth inning with a walk, bringing up Jonathan Schoop, who ripped a double down the left-field line to put the Tigers up 5-2.
Michael Fulmer pitched a scoreless eighth, allowing only a two-out single, and the Tigers opened up the lead in the ninth. Recently recalled Zach Short led off with a walk and a steal, followed by an RBI single from Greene on a full-count slider up the middle.
Báez then reached on an error for the second time, followed by a Grossman walk to load the bases; Schoop then hit a sacrifice fly to make it 7-2.
Jason Foley threw a perfect ninth, with two strikeouts, to end the game.
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