The conversation surrounding tonight’s game leading up to first pitch practically vibrated with excitement for Tarik Skubal’s major league debut. Aside from the lone bright spot of his first major league outing, this game went down the tubes as the pitching staff unraveled and the offense couldn’t pick up the slack. Despite promising signs throughout, the results were simply awful, resulting in a final score of 10-4.
Dylan Cease was entrusted with the starting duties for Chicago, and he made quick work of the top third of the Tigers’ lineup. After striking out Niko Goodrum with a well-placed curveball, he induced lineouts from Harold Castro and Miguel Cabrera. Thus, the game was swiftly turned over to the man of the hour — Tarik Skubal.
Skubal was greeted by Tim Anderson in only way Anderson knows how: a leadoff home run. Moncada and Abreu were no more welcoming, and a pair of well-struck singles landed men on first and second with no outs for Eloy Jimenez. Skubal did get out of the jam; Jimenez bounced into an easy double play. The inning ended with only one run on the board when James McCann, Chicago’s All-Star catcher, hit one that JaCoby Jones caught at the warning track.
Evidently, home run hitting rubs off after watching them fly off opposing bats for a while. Jonathan Schoop hit a 110-mile per hour line drive that traveled 440 feet and brought the Tigers back to level footing with Chicago. Meanwhile, Russ Skubal battled tears while talking about his son’s journey to the big leagues in one of the more heartfelt interviews I’ve seen with a player’s father.
The younger Skubal subsequently gave up a pair of singles and Anderson planted himself irrevocably on the bad side of Tigers fans with a run scoring double down the left field line. The deficit was increased again when a fly ball to right advanced the runners, and it was increased a third time with a single to score Anderson. Jimenez struck out, ending the inning and Skubal’s debut appearance.
All told, the stuff was there, but it was obvious that Skubal wasn’t at his best. PitcherList took a note from the submarine sandwich delivery industry and posted a freaky-fast 2,200-word gif breakdown of his game that’s definitely worth checking out. Included was this gem: an excellent specimen of his newly reworked curveball.
The Tigers offense did a little work in the second inning too. Austin Romine hit a double that bounced out of Mazara’s glove and was driven in by a couple of fly balls. Castro smacked a double as well, this one to the left-center gap. Credit where credit is due — Cease was fooling the Tigers hitters with his curveball. However, his fastball wasn’t fooling anyone, and his breaking ball command wasn’t always on point. Cabrera walked, but Schoop popped out with two men on base.
Daniel Norris took over for Skubal and looked good for the most part, striking out two of the three batters he faced and demonstrating good command of a 93-95 mph fastball. His fourth inning performance went just as well, spotting the ball down and missing bats with his breaking ball. It was smooth sailing for Norris out of the bullpen and everyone went home fat and happy.
Well, that’s only true if you closed your eyes after the first two outs. Tim Anderson ruined things again. He poked a single into right field because he’s genetically engineered to destroy Tigers pitching. Norris, evidently rattled, walked the next guy with the help of the home plate umpire (see below), gave up a double that scored two runs, and the game suddenly looked a lot less winnable.
The Tigers offense evidently took this as their sign to stop getting hits, and the only notable thing that came out of their at-bats in the fifth was Castro being pulled from the game due to left hamstring tightness suffered while first base. He was replaced by Victor Reyes and the game continued apace. The offense showed more life in the sixth inning and got two men on base before Abreu ended the inning with an unassisted double play at first base.
Cease was left on to pitch the seventh, who gave up another hit to Romine and walked Paredes before he was yanked by the Sox in favor of Codi Heuer. The Tigers were able to rack up a number of hits on the young starter, but they never managed to get enough of then in a row for an explosive inning to reassert themselves in the game.
Cisnero capably navigated the seventh inning for the Tigers, but the Tigers offense continued to buzz around the White Sox’ ears in the eight inning. Two runs scored against Zach Burdi, which brought the score to 6-4. Being the eighth inning, the Tigers had only one more chance to make good on the potential to eke out a comeback win.
First, though, the Tigers would have to survive the bottom of the eight without shooting themselves in the foot first. They brought on Gregory Soto, who has been absolute nails this season. How’d things go? Let’s check in with Chris Brown of Tigers Minor League Report.
This looks like Lakeland-era Gregory Soto. Might be a good time for a pitching coach to talk to him...— Chris Brown (@ChrisBrown0914) August 19, 2020
Okay, yeah, it didn’t go well. A single, a walk and a hit batter is a recipe for disaster. Another single, this one an infield hit, scored a run and Soto was given the hook before he’d retured even one hitter. John Schrieber was brought on to cauterize the wound, but predictably, he was eaten alive instead. Three more runs scored, putting this ballgame firmly out of reach for Detroit’s uninspiring offense.
Romine bounced out. Paredes struck out. Goodrum singled, but Reyes struck out, and that’s all she wrote. It’s not a cut and paste of last night’s game, but it turned out to be equally as forgettable. At least we have more of the young prospects up to make this team worth watching.