The Tigers built a slim early lead behind a good outing from starter Tarik Skubal. They even got some early heroics from two new faces. Ultimately it wasn’t enough as the bullpen melted down to lose this one to Cleveland 9-3.
For the third time in three games, the Detroit Tigers took a first inning lead over the Cleveland Indians; Nomar Mazara’s two-run blast out of the cleanup spot set the Tigers up for an opening series sweep on Easter Sunday.
But things went different in the finale. Instead of holding onto the pre-established lead, the Detroit bullpen fumbled the advantage that rookie pitcher Tarik Skubal left behind as he exited in the top of the sixth inning.
Skubal’s first start of the season was a strong one, allowing two earned runs on four hits in 5 2⁄3 innings. He struck out four batters but walked two on 87 pitches. The first run he allowed came in the first inning, but was the result of a blown pickoff play. Skubal caught Indians’ star Jose Ramirez breaking early to second and threw somewhat poorly to first. Harold Castro, quite inexperienced at first base, couldn’t handle the throw and instead of an inning ending play, Ramirez scampered to third where he would score on an Eddie Rosario single. To his credit, Skubal settled in from there and cruised until the sixth inning.
Daniel Norris took over for Skubal to close out the sixth. He allowed one inherited runner to cross but maintained the lead. However, manager A.J. Hinch left Norris in for another inning, and it backfired. He gave up four runs in a rocky seventh inning, punctuated by a two-run home run by lefty masher Jordan Luplow.
The Tigers’ offense, which accumulated only two hits against Cleveland starter Aaron Civale, could not recover and lost 9-3, their first loss on the young 2021 season.
They made the most of the two hits, though. The first was the Mazara home run, and the second came from newly-minted fan favorite Akil Baddoo, a 22-year old Rule 5 pick who forced his way into the Tigers’ 26-man roster. He made his Major League debut on Sunday and, with his parents in brothers in the crowd, he leapt on the first pitch he saw and drove it into the bullpen — complete with a wicked bat flip.
Three other Tigers made their season debuts alongside Baddoo and Skubal, but none had similar success. Harold Castro started at first base, went 0-for-3 and missed a pickoff throw that eventually led to a Cleveland run (though the error officially went to Skubal). Catcher Grayson Greiner struck out twice and right-handed pitcher Buck Farmer served up a two-run home run to Franmil Reyes in the eighth inning.
Cleveland scored eight runs in the final four innings, putting Detroit in too deep of a hole to crawl back out of.
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