Detroit Tigers’ Tarik Skubal surrenders rare home runs in 4-2 loss to New York Yankees

Detroit Free Press

Left-hander Tarik Skubal allowed four hits in six innings.

Two of the hits were home runs.

The Detroit Tigers lost, 4-2, to the New York Yankees on Tuesday in the second of four games at Comerica Park. The home runs off Skubal marked the second and third homers he has surrendered through 50⅓ innings in 10 starts.

“It was quiet for the first eight innings,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “We had a couple opportunities. Grounded into a double play, couldn’t get the ball out of the infield, a lot of ground-ball outs, quite a few punch outs. Package all that together, it wasn’t a great offensive night.”

The Tigers (59-73) have dropped four games in a row.

The two home runs, both solo homers to left-center field with two strikes, were launched by Gleyber Torres with one out in the first inning and Kyle Higashioka with two outs in the fifth inning.

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Torres blasted an eighth-pitch 97.4 mph four-seam fastball for a 454-foot home run; Higashioka got just enough of a fourth-pitch 86.3 mph slider for a 362-foot home run. The homer from Torres landed in front of the bricks — specifically, in front of Jack Morris’ retired number — beyond the wall in left-center field.

Those homers put the Yankees ahead, 2-0.

“The triple-up fastball is a super dangerous sequence,” Hinch said of Torres’ home run. “We paid for it.”

The Yankees took a 3-0 lead in the sixth inning, but Skubal wasn’t to blame. He ended up in a jam with one out because of Aaron Judge’s single, Torres’ hit-by-pitch and Giancarlo Stanton’s single. Judge advanced to second base on his single because of a throwing error by third baseman Matt Vierling.

Skubal fell behind 3-0 in the count to Anthony Volpe but battled back to strike him out on six pitches. But catcher Carson Kelly couldn’t corral Skubal’s first-pitch knuckle curve to Harrison Bader. Two pitches later, Bader flew out to right field to end the inning.

The passed ball, a mistake by Kelly, allowed the Yankees’ third run.

“With no margin for error, given that we weren’t scoring any runs, it felt like a different outing than it actually was,” Hinch said. “He threw the ball very well.”

Skubal, who relied heavily on his filthy changeup, allowed three runs (two earned runs) on four hits and two walks with nine strikeouts over six innings, throwing 62 of 97 pitches for strikes. He generated 15 whiffs with two four-seam fastballs, 12 changeups and one slider.

The 26-year-old has a 3.93 ERA in 10 starts.

“I think he’s tired of people trying to ambush him,” Hinch said. “This is a number of games in a row where guys have tried to ambush him, so he’s going to counter with changeups and better-placed fastballs. I thought that was awesome.”

Missed opportunities

The Tigers continue to struggle with runners in scoring position.

There were scoring opportunities in the third inning against right-hander Michael King in the seventh inning against right-handed reliever Jhony Brito. The Tigers wasted both chances.

“We had a really hard time early,” Hinch said. “We couldn’t capitalize on the one opportunity we had early. Hopefully, we could have capitalized on their error in center (field). Second and third, one out, can’t get the ball out of the infield, and then didn’t get the two-out hit.”

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The Tigers put runners on second and third base with one out in the third inning on singles from Parker Meadows and Kelly. On Kelly’s single, a fielding error by Yankees center fielder Harrison Bader allowed the runners to advance.

Akil Baddoo popped out for the second out, and Riley Greene grounded out for the third out. In his past 12 games, Greene is hitting .116 (5-for-43) with one extra-base hit, four walks and 16 doubles.

Another opportunity presented itself with one out in the seventh inning, thanks to Zach McKinstry’s walk and Meadows’ single. Brito, who replaced King after four innings, needed one pitch to escape the trouble.

Javier Báez grounded into an inning-ending double play on a first-pitch sinker.

A two-out double from McKinstry, which followed Spencer Torkelson’s leadoff walk, put two runners in scoring position against right-handed reliever Clay Homes in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Meadows, a left-handed hitter, didn’t swing at a pair of down-and-in sinkers before hitting a third-pitch sinker up the middle for a two-run single, cutting the Tigers’ deficit to 4-2. Báez, though, struck out swinging to end the game.

“I do like that we came back in the ninth against their back-end guy,” Hinch said. “We created some momentum and created an opportunity for us. To bring the tying run to the plate, that’s encouraging, but we certainly have to do more if we expect to win a game.”

The Tigers finished 1-for-4 with runners in scoring position.

After Skubal’s start

Right-handed reliever Will Vest wasn’t sharp in his first seven outings after returning Aug. 11 from the injured list. The 28-year-old looked like the former version of himself Tuesday in the sixth inning, replacing Skubal.

Vest retired all three batters he faced and threw eight of 10 pitches for strikes.

Right-handed reliever Garrett Hill, recalled Tuesday from Triple-A Toledo, tossed a scoreless eighth inning. He returned for the ninth and gave up a solo home run to Anthony Volpe.

Volpe hit a middle-middle 92.4 mph fastball to left field.

The Tigers, as of Tuesday night, trail the Minnesota Twins by 10 games for first place in the American League Central.

Contact Evan Petzold at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him @EvanPetzold.

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