CHICAGO — For the first time since early June, Detroit Tigers left-hander Tarik Skubal went six innings and looked like the better version of himself on the mound.
The rejuvenated offense backed their starting pitcher with four runs in the top of the seventh – all with two outs – and seven runs total in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings.
The Tigers won their sixth straight game, beating the Chicago White Sox 7-5 in the second of four games at guaranteed rate field. Detroit improved to 36-47 overall and has a 12-7 record as of June 18.
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“We play good baseball and expect to win every single game,” Skubal said. “The focus will be on tomorrow’s game and will do whatever it takes to get another one. That was the focus all year, the results just weren’t there. We were always prepared to win every single game.”
After two outs, the Tigers started their seventh inning with four runs with Jonathan Schoop’s single and Spencer Torkelson’s full-count walk. Jeimer Candelario, who hit .191 in 65 games, gave the Tigers a 3-2 lead with a single to right field.
His hit chased down White Sox right-hander Lucas Giolito.
“It always feels good to contribute to the team,” said Candelario. “You want to contribute. You want to be in the line-up every day. You want to produce. These are the big leagues. We have to be productive. We have to win ball games. We have to perform. We’re working on that.” really hard to do and we still have a lot of games left.”
Right-hander Joe Kelly came on and Willi Castro greeted him with a two-strike single to give Torkelson a 4-2 advantage. A full count walk by Riley Greene loaded the bases.
Javier Báez enjoyed the boos from the Chicago fans.
“His ability to thrive in those moments is second to none,” said manager AJ Hinch. “Most people – players, coaches, myself – don’t love this environment because it can get a little intimidating, but Javy thrives in it. He asks for it. He delivers when it happens. He loves the big moment.”
Báez ripped a first-pitch curveball from Kelly into left field for a two-run double and a 6-2 lead. Arriving at second base, he threw his arms in the air to taunt the crowd, who have been taunting him since Friday’s game.
“I love it,” Skubal said. “It feels like he’s playing better every time he’s booed. I don’t know if the fans want to keep booing him, but for me I hope every fan boos him on every road trip. I feel like he’s playing better that way.”
The Tigers added their final run in the eighth inning when Eric Haase turned on the Jets and hit from first base with two outs after a mistake by center fielder Luis Robert.
At the end of the round of 16, the White Sox countered by hitting three runs with two outs. All three were billed to right-hander Jason Foley. Left-hander Tyler Alexander clinched the finals – beating right-handed pinch hitter Andrew Vaughn by three places – but not before giving up two RBI singles.
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Right-back Michael Fulmer put the tie run on base but escaped the jam for a scoreless ninth inning and his second save. He knocked out Robert with a series of sliders; Jose Abreu flew out to end the game.
“Today of all days, I felt like I was trying to grope for the slider,” Fulmer said. “In the bullpen I tried to feel a little bit more than normal afterwards. … (Runners on) first and third, I found the adaptation, whatever it was. I had to.”
At the start of Friday’s outing, Skubal had a 9.00 ERA – 23 runs in 23 innings – in his last five starts, from June 12 through last Sunday. During that stretch, he recorded 14 walks and 20 strikeouts.
In his first 11 starts, the 25-year-old commanded a 2.33 ERA with 10 walks and 70 strikeouts in 65⅔ innings.
Faced with the White Sox being one of the most dangerous offenses against left-handed pitchers, Skubal’s results were similar to the performance he presented earlier in the season. He allowed two runs with six hits and a walk with seven strikeouts in six innings, and threw 61 of 91 pitches for strikes.
“I felt like I used everything pretty well,” Skubal said. “I was able to slow them down and speed them up, and then make some changes in some fastball counts and command my slider. I thought my slider was pretty good today and that’s the playing field that hasn’t been good for me lately. “
Strike back for Skubal
In the first inning, Robert smashed a two-run home run from Skubal’s four-seam 93.8 mph fastball in the first pitch. The pitcher wandered into the middle and Robert didn’t miss his chance to take a 2-0 lead.
He hit the fastball with an exit speed of 111.4 mph. The ball traveled 449 feet to left field.
“I threw the field right in the middle,” said Skubal. “That guy will do that.”
Three of the first four batters recorded hits: Tim Anderson (single), Robert (home run), and Abreu (double).
After Abreus double locked Skubal.
“Eventually you stand up and fight for yourself,” Hinch said. “He wasn’t pitching early, and it hit him, and then suddenly he found his slider, he found his changeup, he even turned the slow curveball, which hasn’t existed for the last few starts.”
He seemed unpredictable with his sound mixing. His transition and two-seam fastball helped him dominate Chicago’s lineup, which is packed with righties. There were no left-handers in the lineup.
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Skubal avoided further damage and rebounded, defeating Eloy Jimenez (swinging, two-seamer) and Adam Engel (looking, two-seamer) to complete his first 21-square inning.
In the third, Skubal faced Robert and Abreu for the second time. Robert flew into right field, and Abreu — in an eight-pitch fight — knocked out on a 90.1-mile slider.
“I was able to master that pitch,” Skubal said of his two-seater. “I could run it where it looked like a ball and get back in. This brings the slider down and in at the same spot where I can make the plate look a little wider than it really is.”
Skubal worked around a walk in the fourth inning and around two singles in the fifth. A challenge from Hinch gave the Tigers their third-place finish in fifth when Anderson came off base – just for a moment – while slipping to second place with Robert’s single.
First, Anderson was declared safe.
To wrap up his outing, Skubal fired a sixth inning with three up and three down. He beat Jose Abreu (swing, switch) and Eloy Jimenez (look, switch) before Engel stepped up for the third out.
“This pitch is a kind of balance,” Skubal said of his move.
For Skubal’s 91 pitches, he threw 27 sliders (30%), 23 two-seam fastballs (25%), 18 changeups (20%), 17 four-seam fastballs (19%), and six knuckle curves (7%). He recorded 15 swings and penalties: five sliders, two two-seamers, five change-ups, two four-seamers and one turn.
He also got 13 called strikes.
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The Tigers practiced with two runs and pared Candelario’s two-run home run 2-2 in the sixth inning. He hammered a switch from Giolito with an initial speed of 102.8 mph.
The ball carried 409 feet to right field.
“The homer woke everyone up,” Hinch said.
Before Candelario went deep, Giolito was in complete control of his outing. He hit to the side in the first inning, and the Tigers had just one hit – Haase’s single in the second – before the sixth.
Torkelson set up Candelario’s homer by drawing a full-count walk.
“I’ve played him a lot in my career so you have to adapt,” said Candelario. “I didn’t sit on the changeup. I was just trying to see the fastball and hit it all the way. He threw the changeup there and I was ready to respond.”
Giolito allowed five runs with five hits and two walks with eight strikeouts in 6⅔ innings and threw 65 of 94 pitches for strikes.
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