Tigers 7, Athletics 3: Tarik Skubal is a bad man

Bless You Boys

Tarik Skubal was dominant once again, and the Tigers got contributions throughout their lineup as they took it to Oakland with a 7-0 victory on Thursday night.

Now that the Tigers have topped the 70 win mark for the second time since 2016, the final 10 games don’t have a whole lot of heat left. Wins and losses won’t change the outlook for 2024. But against a team like the Oakland A’s, at the end of a long west coast swing late in the season, this is a good opportunity for the Tigers to come away from the road trip with a series victory under their belts before welcoming in the Royals and Guardians to finish the season as the Miguel Cabrera send-off party gets underway.

They had the right guy on the mound on Thursday night. Tarik Skubal spent the evening taking the A’s lunch money while the offense built him a nice lead to work with.

Right out of the chute, the Tigers took it to starter Luis Medina and this young Oakland club. Matt Vierling led off the game by dumping a double down the right field line. A line out to center from Zach McKinstry allowed Vierling to take third. With the infield in, Spencer Torkelson pulled a ground ball to shortstop, Vierling scored, and shortstop Nick Allen threw the ball away, allowing Torkelson to reach second on the play.

Another hard hit ball for an out to Esteury Ruiz in center field off the bat of Kerry Carpenter allowed Torkelson to tag and take third. At that point Andy Ibáñez ripped another drive up the right center field gap. Ruiz, the American League stolen base leader with 61 bases snagged, couldn’t quite get there. The ball nicked his glove and bounced away as Torkelson scored and Ibáñez raced around to third with a triple. Miguel Cabrera grounded out to third to end the inning. 2-0 Tigers.

Skubal racked up some strikeouts early, while a pair of double plays in the second and third inning made short work of the A’s with minimal pitch count.

Carpenter doubled to lead off the fourth, but he was stranded. However, in the fifth, the Tigers started to break this one open. Parker Meadows led off with a lined single to center field. A wild pitch allowed him to take second, and he tagged and advanced to third on a Jake Rogers fly out to right field. Vierling chopped a single back through the box into center field and it was 3-0.

At that point McKinstry smoked a double into the right field corner. Vierling was held at third, but the relay throw got away from the A’s. McKinstry never stopped, taking third on the play while Vierling turned the jets back on and scored. The A’s defense really hurt them in this one. Torkelson got an 0-2 meatball of a curve and whiffed. But with Ibáñez at the dish, Medina balked in McKinstry to make it 5-0 before Ibáñez flew out to center field.

Two more strikeouts for Skubal in the bottom of the fifth made it seven for him on the night, with just two singles and no walks allowed. He’d only thrown 56 pitches at that point, and so the A’s pain would continue for quite some time.

Mason Miller took over from Medina in the top of the sixth, showcasing triple digit heat. He issued a two-out walk to Parker Meadows, but he was cut down trying to steal second to end the half inning. Another quick inning for Skubal made it eight strikeouts.

The Tigers went in order in the seventh, and Skubal came back out, issued his first walk of the day to Ruiz, but then struck out the next two hitters to reach 10 punchouts on the night. Aledmys Diaz popped out to end the inning. Skubal was at 87 pitches through seven innings.

Torkelson drilled a sharp single to left against Miller to open the eighth inning, and then Carpenter pulled a grounder through the right side of the infield, moving Torkelson to third. Miller was laboring at this point, and Andy Ibáñez did a nice job spitting on a couple close fastballs before pulled a shot into left field for an RBI single. 6-0 Tigers.

The A’s turned to lefty Easton Lucas, and A.J. Hinch had already inserted Andre Lipcius to hit for Miguel Cabrera after the big man fouled a ball off his leg in his previous AB. A wild pitch moved both runners up 90 feet, and Lipcius drew a walk to load them up. Zack Short, pinch-hitting for Baddoo, flicked a little swinging bunt with some sidespin toward first baseman Jordan Diaz, and he whiffed on the play. Carpenter scored and the bases remained loaded. 7-0 Tigers.

Lucas struck out Parker Meadows, then fell behind 3-0 to Jake Rogers. The Tigers’ catcher looked like he’d decided to leave it up to Lucas as he took three consecutive fastballs for strikes. A fly ball to right field from Vierling left the bases loaded, and the pythag wept.

The game, however, was well in hand.

Hinch pulled Skubal and inserted Brenan Hanifee to make his major league debut. He got his first out as a big leaguer as Shea Langeliers flew out to right field to start the bottom of the eighth. Seth Brown pinch-hit for Carlos Perez, and Hanifee froze him with a sinker at the top of the zone for his first major league strikeout. Left-hander Ryan Noda pinch-hit for Jordan Diaz as A’s manager Mark Kotsay emptied his bench. Hanifee got ahead with a cutter and a changeup for whiffs, then froze him with the cutter two pitches later for his second punchout. That’s a nice debut, and under perfect conditions.

On to the ninth.

Trevor May took over for the A’s, facing McKinstry, Torkelson, and Carpenter. McKinstry smoked a fly ball out to Ruiz at 103.8 mph for the first out of the inning. Torkelson struck out, and Carpenter lined out to first, and it was last call for the A’s.

Hanifee gave up a leadoff double to Kevin Smith, but got Nick Allen on a ground out that moved Smith to third. Esteury Ruiz fell behind 0-2, but a wild pitch scored Smith from third. Ruiz lined out to left, and that left it up to second baseman Zac Gelof, A ground ball that Torkelson should’ve made a play on allowed Gelof to reach first. The Tigers were getting a little sloppy with the big lead, and it continued when Brent Rooker crushed a middle-middle sinker to center field for a two-run homer to make it 7-3. That brought a little mound visit from Chris Fetter, but only delayed the inevitable as Diaz flew out to end the game.

The Tigers move to 72-81 on the season with the victory. Sawyer Gipson-Long will make his third MLB start on Friday night at 9:40 p.m. ET against LHP Ken Waldichuk.

Congratulation to the Erie SeaWolves

Congratulations to the Erie SeaWolves are in order as they won their first round playoff series earlier this evening. They took Game 3 by a 7-3 score over the Richmond Flying Squirrels. Ty Madden put together a solid start, and Chris Meyers homered twice, driving in four runs in the winning effort.

Manager Gabe Alvarez continues to do a superb job with the Tigers young prospects and has that team playing really good ball right now. They’ll kick off the championship series on Sunday in Binghamton against the Rumble Ponies. Games 2 and 3 will be at UPMC Park as required. Expect Wilmer Flores to start Game 1.

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