Detroit — As they were walking off the field at the end of the first inning Saturday, Tarik Skubal sidled up to Tim Anderson.
“I asked him, ‘How do you get you out?'” Skubal said. “He said, ‘You know how.’ I was like, ‘No, please tell me.'”
Anderson’s first-inning single brought his career damage against Skubal to 12 for 21 with six doubles and a home run, which was the first homer Skubal allowed in his career.
“I did get him out the next two times, so I’ll take it,” he said.
Skubal, who struck Anderson out the next two times he faced him, pitched five, two-hit scoreless innings with nine strikeouts as the Tigers evened the series with a 3-1 win over the White Sox at Comerica Park.
“It’s nice to have his weapons,” manager AJ Hinch said of Skubal. “He’s so hard on himself about going deeper in the game and not punching guys out and walking (lefty-swinging Andrew) Benintendi — things that the good ones obsess about.
“But we will take this one tonight.”
The nine strikeouts were one reason his outing was short. The long at-bats ate up his pitch count. He was at 95 and done after he punched out Anderson to end the fifth.
“That’s kind of the frustrating part, right?” Skubal said. “Too many 0-2 to 3-2 counts. If you get to 0-2, that at-bat should be over in four pitches. Take your shot and get right back at it in the zone. I thought I had too many uncompetitive misses especially with the stuff I had. I thought it was pretty good.
“And nine strikeouts is always good, but you can get that in seven innings, as well.”
His fastball was sizzling, sitting 96 mph and hitting 98, with good ride through the zone. That made his change-up even nastier.
“I thought they were going up to hit the fastball, it looked like it,” Hinch said. “They were trying to get to the fastball because of the quality of his secondary pitches. He was pretty good. But they had some long at-bats, fouled off some pitches — punch-outs are going to cost you some pitches and steal an inning or two from you.”
In total, he got 19 swinging strikes and 14 called strikes against the 19 batters he faced. He got 12 whiffs on 16 swings with the change-up.
It was just a 1-0 game when Skubal departed, which was another mildly frustrating aspect of this win for the Tigers. They steadfastly refused to accept the big innings that were graciously offered by the White Sox pitching staff.
“The net result of the win is we have a chance to win the series tomorrow,” Hinch said. “We’ve played these guys well this last week and there’s no complaints on that. But the efficiency of making it easier, we need to tack on the runs when we can. If you can separate yourself with who you have on the mound and who you have available, life would be a little easier.”
The last time Jose Urena pitched at Comerica Park, he was wearing the Old English D. That was Sept. 24, 2021. His 100-inning season for the Tigers was characterized mostly by his 1.6 WHIP, 9% walk rate and seemingly constant traffic on the bases.
The same guy showed up in a White Sox uniform Saturday night. The Tigers put nine baserunners on base against him in four innings, but only one of those crossed the plate.
“I was talking to (catcher coach) Tim Federowicz in the dugout,” Matt Vierling said. “I was like, ‘Man, it feels like we’re one or two hits away from an inning blowing up. Like just one hit away from an inning just taking off and it’ll be 5-0.”
That didn’t happen.
A two-out single in the second inning by Zach McKinstry provided the lone mark against Urena. The Tigers left the bases loaded in the first and stranded runners at second and third in the fourth.
The Tigers squeezed out another run in the sixth, though again they left the bases loaded. Reliever Luis Patino gave up a leadoff single to Vierling and then walked Tyler Nevin, Jake Rogers and Short to force in a run.
Patino, though, struck out Akil Baddoo and got Andy Ibanez to foul out to the catcher. Baddoo stranded five runners in scoring position in three at-bats.
Vierling didn’t wait around for baserunners. He launched his eighth homer of the season with two outs in the seventh against former starter Michael Kopech, who was sent to the bullpen after his last start.
“I don’t stress about homers, but I totally see that I hadn’t homered in four frickin’ months,” said Vierling, who hadn’t homered since he hit two on June 16. “I wasn’t stressing it but what the heck. I’m not trying to hit homers but in batting practice I let it rip. Just for some reason it hasn’t translated to the game.
“That felt really good. I needed that.”
So did the Tigers.
The bullpen did have Skubal’s back.
Alex Faedo put up zeros in the sixth and seventh innings, setting down six of the seven batters he faced with three strikeouts with the only runner reaching on a walk.
But things got tense in the top of the eighth. Right-hander Jason Foley gave up a leadoff double to left-handed pinch-hitter Yasmani Grandal. Lefties are hitting .306 and slugging .506 against Foley. He did strike out lefty Benintendi for the second out, but gave up an RBI single to Luis Robert Jr.
An error by Short extended the inning and brought switch-hitter Moncada to the plate, batting left-handed. Hinch didn’t want any part of that matchup so he brought in Alex Lange. Lange got Moncada to ground out to second.
Hinch has let Foley work through tight spots against lefties most of the season. He was asked if there was something about the Moncada matchup that triggered the move this time.
“Yes,” he said. “And I will tell you after the series is over.”
Lange locked down the ninth for his 22nd save.
The Tigers, 29-16 against the Central Division, have now clinched the season series against all four division rivals. They haven’t done that since 2011.
Twitter (X): @cmccosky