Fresh off their extra innings victory in Minnesota, the Detroit Tigers opened a nine game homestand against the recently visited Cleveland Guardians of Gridlock, looking to start a new winning streak. Tarik Skubal showed everyone his leg was fine and while the offense went quiet in the middle of the game after an early lead, Miguel Cabrera played hero in the bottom of the ninth with a walk off single to give the Tigers a 4-3 victory.
Getting an unplanned respite from noted Tiger Killer, Aaron Civale, Detroit turned their attention to his AAA replacement, Konnor Pilkington. Though he did fairly well in his previous MLB start this year against Toronto, he struggled with command of his breaking and off-speed pitches in this start. He was struggling in Triple-A Columbus to the tune of a 5.02 ERA and 1.605 WHIP before his callup and even the toothless Tigers offense was able to pick up on his pitches and work his pitch count in this game. Whether he just didn’t trust his feel for his off-speed stuff or just preferred to rely on his fastball, he threw his four seamer often, 63% of the time in his brief outing.
The Tigers started things off in the first with a single from Robbie Grossman, and after he moved up to second following a walk to Miguel Cabrera, Javier Báez singled to put the Tigers up 1-0. Torkelson walked later in the inning to load the bases but Daz Cameron flew out to end the threat. Pretty good start, but the LOBster count would pile up in this one as the night progressed.
In the second inning, after Tucker Barnhart flew out, Derek Hill singled and then Grossman followed with a double to left to put two in scoring position. Jonathan Schoop hit a deep fly ball to center to score Hill and move Grossman to third. He then scored on a Cabrera single and the Tigers had a 3-0 lead after two innings.
Tarik Skubal returned to the mound following an early exit due to a 100 mph line drive off his kneecap and resumed work on his scoreless inning streak. He set down the side in order in the first, and then worked a scoreless second with a single and a strikeout to move the streak to 21 innings.
The streak would come to an end in the third inning though, when Luke Maile doubled after Oscar Mercado singled to start the inning. After a solid play from Schoop to erase Malie at third, Torkelson missed a pickoff throw from Skubal to put Myles Straw on second. He seemed to be having a bit of trouble spotting his curveball, as a walk and a groundout later, Owen Miller tied the game on a ground ball single. That’s when Skubal got angry. He struck out Josh Naylor to end the inning and then retired 12 of the next 13 batters. He used his slider and fastball to bust up the Guardian hitters and then he would break out a changeup that did nasty things to them.
Tarik Skubal, Nasty 86mph Changeup. pic.twitter.com/lrRY6iRh7f— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 26, 2022
He got the handshake from AJ Hinch after the seventh, when he ended the inning with back to back strikeouts and throwing 98 mph with a fury. His final line, pretty good.
Crazy to think Tarik Skubal was throwing almost 60 percent four-seam fastballs in 2020. His pitch percentage breakdown tonight:— Cody Stavenhagen (@CodyStavenhagen) May 27, 2022
Slider: 28 percent
Four-seam: 28 percent
Changeup: 19 percent
Sinker: 18 percent
Curveball: 7 percent https://t.co/jHsIhZY3rW
All the while, the Tigers offense tried to retake the lead in support of Skubal but they failed to get the go-ahead run home. They loaded the bases in the fourth with one out, but couldn’t score. The knocked Pilkington out of the game after Cabrera singled to load the bases but Enyel De Los Santos came on in relief and struck out Báez and got Candelario to fly out, though he hammered the first pitch he saw deep but well foul. From there for the next four innings, between Santos and Eli Morgan, the only baserunner the Tigers got was a Spencer Torkelson hit by pitch.
Jason Foley and Gregory Soto worked scoreless eighth and ninth innings to send things to the bottom of the ninth, still tied at 3. Trevor Stephan took over for the Guardians and struck out Grossman to start. Schoop followed with a double to left center to give the Tigers a chance to walk it off. Somewhat curiously, with first base open, Terry Francona opted to pitch to Miggy rather than walking him to get to Báez. He chose...poorly.
Miguel Cabrera dug in and on a 1-1 pitch Stephan spiked a splitter in the dirt and Schoop moved up to third. The infield moved in, and Miggy ripped the very next pitch through the infield to win it. Never a doubt. First walk off win for the Tigers since the opening day walk-off win.
Tarik has been really good this year and his last few starts have been [fire emoji]
Tarik Skubal's last four starts:— Detroit Tigers (@tigers) May 27, 2022
25 IP • 15 H • 6 BB • 26 K • .174 OBA pic.twitter.com/Vcx56eCbni
The Tigers improve their record to 15-7 when they score at least three runs. While it points to a struggling offense, it also shows just how dominant their pitching, especially late in games has been.