Tigers 5, Reds 1: Skubal sees Reds, Tigers sweep

Bless You Boys

Tarik Skubal was brilliant on Sunday, racking up a new personal high in strikeouts over seven dominant innings. The offense wasted a lot of early chances, but eventually broke through and the Tigers swept the Reds to win just their third series since the beginning of June.

The Tigers came into this one hunting for their first sweep since the first series of the season. Odds were in their favor with Tarik Skubal on the mound against RHP Graham Ashcraft, who is decent but a bit limited as a starter with a two-pitch mix.

The approach was good for the Tigers out of the gate, but in the early going it led only to frustration. Mark Canha singled to right with two outs in the top of the first, and Ashcraft was clearly pitching around Riley Greene and walked him. Wenceel Pérez grounded out to end the inning.

It was a similar story in the second inning as well. Gio Urshela led off with a single, but Zach McKinstry ripped a line drive right to Jeimer Candelario at first base for the easy double play.

In the third, the Tigers stayed patient. Parker Meadows led off with a walk and then stole second base. Colt Keith walked with one out. However Canha popped out and Riley Greene struck out to strand them.

Frustrating start because the approach was really good against Ashcraft, but he was effectively wild in the early going.

Meanwhile, Skubal needed just 18 pitches to cruise through the first two frames with three strikeouts. Austin Wynns got to Skubal with a double up the left center field gap to lead off the bottom of the third. Skubal settled right back in to strike out Will Benson. Blake Dunn grounded out, and then Jonathan India went down swinging for Skubal’s fifth strikeout in three very efficient innings of work.

If you were worried they’d let Ashcraft off the hook and he’d get dialed in…eh not really, but the Tigers still wasted some opportunity in the fourth. Pérez led off with a single through the right side and Urshela paddled a grounder up the middle for a single as well. Zach McKinstry reached out on a two-strike pitch away and served it into left field, and the Tigers led 1-0.

Unfortunately, Jake Rogers then grounded into a double play and Meadows grounded out as well to send it to the bottom half with a slim lead.

Skubal punched out Elly De La Cruz to start the bottom of the fourth, and then Candelario grounded out. As usual it was heavy doses of high 90’s gas and his lethal changeup, with a few sliders mixed in for good measure. Skubal got ahead of Spencer Steer 0-2, then missed high with a pair of fastballs before freezing him with 98 right on the inner edge for Skubal’s seventh strikeout on his 50th pitch of the day.

For the offense it continued to be TTBDNS day. Colt Keith slashed a one out single through the left side of the infield with one out. Canha lifted a fly ball to left for the second out of the inning, and Keith then stole second base pretty easily. Unfortunately, David Bell wasn’t going to let Ashcraft face Riley Greene a third time and went to the pen for lefty Sam Moll. The left-hander froze Greene with another perfect pitch on the outer edge to escape the minor jam Ashcraft had left him.

Skubal started the bottom half by punching out Noelvi Marte for his 8th strikeout. Santiago Espinal grounded out to first, and that left it to Wynn’s to get something started. Skubal broke out the knuckle curve for strike one and then doubled up on it as poor Mr. Wynns tried to gear up for the fastball. A changeup down drew a swinging strike three for punchout number nine on the day.

The Tigers got another little opportunity in the sixth when Urshela singled with one out for his third knock on the day. But again things came undone quickly. A passed ball was quickly recovered by Wynns and he threw Urshela out trying to take second after hesitating briefly. Not great. McKinstry struck out to end the inning.

Skubal allowed a leadoff single to Will Benson, and he didn’t like it one bit. Dunn, India, and De La Cruz got completely undressed as Skubal racked up his 10th, 11th, and 12th strikeouts on the day. The 76th pitch of his outing drew a roar from Skubal as he carved up De La Cruz with a changeup down and watched him whiff again.

Skubal needed some run support. Ok not really, but the bullpen was going to pitch at some point, so runs were required. Jake Rogers walked to open the seventh. Meadows struck out, but Vierling pulled a double into left field to get Rogers to third. Keith flicked a first pitch curveball for a little blooper that dropped into center field to score Rogers. Vierling had to wait on it a moment and could only get to third, but it was 2-0 and up to Mark Canha. And Canha grounded into a double play. Arrgghh.

Felt like the Tigers should be up 7-0 by this point with all the baserunners. Not ideal.

Skubal allowed a leadoff double to Candelario to restart things after the seventh inning stretch. Steer was next, and he got a first pitch slider and pulled a grounder to McKinstry, who blew the play. The error had runners on first and second with no outs, and Skubal was going to have to dig deep as his pitch count climbed into the 80’s.

A wild pitch that was really a passed ball got away from Rogers, moving the runners up 90 feet, and now we were getting unhappy. Most of all Tarik Skubal. He got Marte to ground out to McKinstry, who made the routine play this time, but a run scored and it was 2-1 Tigers.

Skubal got Espinal to fly out to right and then carved up Austin Wynns with a changeup for his 13th strikeout of the day on his last pitch.

7.0 IP, 1 ER, 3 H, 0 BB, 13 K. This could’ve been a complete game with a little better play from his teammates, but still one heck of a performance even by the lofty standard the southpaw is setting over the last year. He collected 23 whiffs in this one, 12 on the changeup, the rest on the fourseamer and slider. 13 strikeouts was a new career high for the game’s best pitcher over the last year.

All-Star rosters are set to be released around 5:30 p.m. ET this evening, and his name better be on it.

Alexis Diaz, younger brother of Edwin Diaz, Mets closer, took the mound in the eighth. Urshela reached on an error to start the eighth as Marte threw wide of third. Urshela almost got caught turning inside the base line, but got back. And then it was redemption arc time, as McKinstry stepped to the dish needing to contribute and promptly lifted a fly ball over the wall in right field for a two-run shot that made it 4-1 Tigers.

Jake Rogers, also needing a bit of redemption, then singled the opposite way and stole second base on Diaz, who is exceedingly slow to the plate with an elaborate old school delivery. Parker Meadows pulled a ground ball for a single through the right side on a play that Blake Dunn should’ve made easily, and Rogers scored. 5-1.

However, Meadows was then caught stealing and appeared to bang up his right knee on the slide. The inning was over, and Vierling took over in center field with Ryan Kreidler taking over at shortstop and McKinstry moving to left field. Will Vest came on and got a ground out and then struck out pinch-hitter Edwin Rios, who has a 50 percent K-rate, if you’re wondering. India popped out, and we were on to the ninth.

Buck Farmer took the mound for the Reds. He had no trouble. Colt Keith was the second batter in the inning and took two balls that were called strikes, the last for strike three. Keith stalked to the dugout barking at home plate umpire Dan Iassogna under his breath like a veteran. The Tigers had a bit of a chippy vibe in this series and it was much appreciated after the disaster of the past few weeks. Of course, Skubal sets that tone pitching with extreme intensity out there, and we love it.

Alex Faedo, who started Saturday’s game, came on to close this one out. He allowed a one-out double to Spencer Steer, but otherwise had no issues. A Marte grounder to Urshela at third ended it, and the Tigers had their first sweep since doing it to the White Sox to open the season.

The Tigers come home with RHP Keider Montero on the mound on Monday night as the first place Cleveland Guardians come to town for four games. We’ll see the Guardians quite a bit in July.

Box Score

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