Tigers bounce back from blowout loss as Skubal, Rogers pace victory over Rays

Detroit News

Detroit – The Tigers are an imperfect team, certainly. The 28-3 run differential in the four previous games against the Tampa Bay Rays is a fair barometer of the gap between those two teams.

But say this for them, they don’t wallow. They scrap. When they get sand kicked in their faces like they did Friday night, they generally bounce back strong the next day.

The Tigers flushed the 8-0 loss Friday with a hard-earned 4-2 victory over the Rays Saturday at Comerica Park.

“After you get punched, you want to punch back,” said Jake Rogers, who sparked the win with two clutch hits.

Not only did the win get the Tigers off the schneid against the Rays (they’d lost all four this season and nine of the last 10), it was also the first time they beat right-hander Aaron Civale.

The former Cleveland Guardians pitcher had been 7-0 with a 2.06 ERA in 10 starts against the Tigers. This was his debut with Tampa Bay.

“I’ve known him since college,” Rogers said, smiling. “He was my roommate in the Cape Cod League. I’ve faced him a lot and caught him a lot. … He might not be talking to me for a few days.”

The Tigers were down 1-0 when Rogers delivered a two-out RBI single after Civale had punched out Akil Baddoo and Zack Short with runners at the corners.

“Jake came through and you could feel there was an entire exhale in the dugout,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said.

Then, after a single by Andy Ibanez and a two-strike double by Baddoo in the fourth, Rogers broke the tie with a double to the left-center gap, scoring both runners.

“I just wanted to come through and get the ball rolling,” Rogers said. “He gave me a couple of good pitches to hit that I’m sure he wishes he had back.”

BOX SCORE: Tigers 4, Rays 2

Baddoo launched his sixth home run of the season leading off the sixth inning. He hammered an elevated cutter from reliever Robert Stevenson and sent it, with a one-arm swing, 429 feet off the foul pole in right. The ball left his bat with an exit velocity of 112 mph.

“I was just hoping it stayed fair,” Baddoo said. “I don’t care if I hit it 112 mph if it doesn’t stay fair. I was relieved it stayed fair.”

The Rays face a lot of elite starting pitchers playing in the American League East. But they haven’t seen too many left-handers as dominant as Tarik Skubal was Saturday.

“Skubal, he’s good,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “He’s really good. And it seems like he’s healthy. We might have seen his best game.”

Tigers manager AJ Hinch agreed.

“He was incredible,” Hinch said after Skubal allowed one unearned run with six strikeouts in 5.1 innings. “He was laser-focused, locked in. It was some of the best stuff he’s featured pre-injury, post-injury, whatever. He was in attack mode.”

Skubal’s fastball hit 98 mph and was sitting 96. He was wielding it like a club, inside, outside, up and down. It took him an inning or so to find the feel of his change-up, but once he started mixing that with sliders and an occasional knuckle curve, he was able to control a dangerous, all-right handed hitting lineup.

“I thought I did a good job of attacking,” Skubal said. “Rog (Rogers) called a great game and I kind of pitched to my strengths really well and I was able to execute some pitches. That’s a really good lineup. You have to have everything. Rog stuck with me even when I wasn’t executing. I just told him, ‘Keep calling them until I get there.'”

Skubal allowed six hits, all singles. The only run against him was unearned in the second inning.

Center fielder Riley Greene, uncharacteristically, misplayed two singles, letting both Harold Ramirez and Manuel Margot get an extra base. Ramirez scored on Margot’s hit.

“You could just see his adrenaline,” Hinch said. “They way he pitched with energy and focus and grit — he has it. He’s going down fighting, man. He wants the ball in his hand and he wants the competition between him and the hitter and he’s not going to back down.

“Outside of a couple of defensive plays, he didn’t give up anything.”

Skubal was at 88 pitches with one on and one out in the sixth after he walked Randy Arozarena. Reliever Jose Cisnero cleaned up that mess, striking out pinch-hitter Luke Raley and, with the bases loaded, Margot.

Jason Foley picked up Cisnero in the seventh and limited a potentially big inning to one run, getting Arozarena to fly out with two on. And lefty Tyler Holton pitched a clean eighth before things got sticky in the ninth.

For the second straight outing, Alex Lange walked three hitters and didn’t get through his inning. Of his 20 pitches, only three were in the strike zone.

“We’ve got to keep pushing, keep working at it,” Hinch said. “It’s always tough to take a guy out at the end of the game. But we just have to have more strikes. It’s simple but it’s not easy to execute especially when you have the weight of the world on your shoulders.”

Lange walked the first two batters, but then got Yandy Diaz to bounce into a double-play. His third walk, though, to Wander Franco brought Hinch out of the dugout. He summoned right-hander Beau Brieske to face former Tiger Isaac Paredes.

Brieske, who grinded through a 24-pitch scoreless inning Friday, got Paredes to chase a 1-2, four-seam fastball for the final out and his first career save.

“Right on right with a sinker,” Hinch said when asked what he liked about Brieske in that situation. “There’s not a lot of trickery with him, either. In a big moment, one, we needed strikes and I feel good about Beau throwing strikes. Two, we need resolve and a guy who wasn’t going to back down.

“I will take my chances with him challenging contact with a ball that moves at 97 to 100 mph.”

Copy that.

The Tigers were without shortstop Javier Báez. He was a late scratch after he learned of a death in his family.

Twitter: @cmccosky

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