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Tigers 5, Pirates 3: Skubal does it again

Extra-base power and solid pitching got the Tigers back in the win column.

Detroit Tigers v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

After a day spent licking their wounds in the wake of a three-game sweep in the Bronx, the Tigers traded the short porch in right field for the delightful views of the Pittsburgh skyline at the gorgeous PNC Park... after a two-hour rain delay, of course. The change of scenery did them good, as the Tigers got back to their winning ways with a 5-3 victory.

Tarik Skubal got the start tonight, eventually (see the Notes at the bottom). His 2022 so far has been excellent, and his previous outing might’ve been his best to date: seven shutout innings against the division-leading Minnesota Ball Club. Then again, a depleted Twins team got spanked pretty good last weekend in Toronto, so maybe a little skepticism is in ord—naaah, let’s revel in this while we can, everyone.

Facing Skubal tonight was fellow lefty José Quintana, who may be familiar to Tigers fans as a member of the White Sox from 2012 through mid-2017, when he switched sides of the city to join the Cubs for a few years. Quintana had a rough 2021, split between the Angels and the Giants, but this year so far in ten starts before tonight he’s been solid with a 2.32 ERA and, like Skubal, a scant pair of home runs surrendered. His WHIP is a very good 1.232 this year, which isn’t as low as it was during his All-Star 2016 campaign when it was 1.163, but he’s still under his career average.

In the bottom of the first, Pittsburgh’s left fielder Jack Suwinski punched the ball into the left-field corner. Then, your left fielder showed off his arm.

If you had “starting left fielder Willi Castro guns out a guy at second” on your bingo card in April, you’re better at this than I am.

In the bottom of the second, after Cal Mitchell singled to left with two out, Yu Chang hit a popup to short right field. Jonathan Schoop went out for it, and Austin Meadows came in for it; really, it should’ve been the outfielder’s ball, but Schoop went for the catch and it clanked off his glove. Mitchell raced around to score all the way from first, putting the Pirates up 1-0.

Schoop atoned for his miscue with a two-out double to the deepest part of left-center in the top of the third, similarly scoring Willi Castro from first to tie the game.

In the top of the fourth, Javier Báez led off with a sharp single, then he stole second for his first steal of the season. With one out, Spencer Torkelson absolutely smoked a line-drive off the top of the fence in right-center, scoring Báez easily from second.

Later in the inning, the Tigers loaded the bases and Hittin’ Harold Castro came to the plate. Living up to his nickname, he singled to center, drove in two runs, gave the Tigers a 4-1 lead and chased Quintana, who’d been pretty solid for the first three innings for the most part.

Mitchell, a lefty, hit a deep home run to the upper deck in right field — only the third home run Skubal’s given up all year — to narrow the gap to 4-3 in the bottom of the fourth. The good swings against Skubal kept coming in the fifth, as he went through the order for the third time and the Pirates had runners on first and second with two outs. But then Skubal struck out Suwinski on three pitches, and the threat was ended.

Speaking of Skubal, he ended the seventh with nine wiffs and ninety pitches, would he come out for the bottom of the eighth?

Some interesting baserunning — some good, some bad — unfolded in the top of the eighth. After Torkelson walked, a wild pitch got him to second. Daz Cameron hit a grounder to shortstop, Torkelson broke towards third but then reversed course, and the shortstop threw back to second to nab Torkelson before he could get back. Tucker Barnhart then hit a soft liner to right field and Mitchell tried a diving catch, but whiffed on it as it bounced past him; Cameron scored from first on some aggressive baserunning and a windmill-home from Ramon Santiago coaching third. That insurance run pushed the lead up to 5-3.

As it turned out, Skubal’s night was indeed done; Alex Lange came on in relief. After walking Ke’Bryan Hayes, Bryan Reynolds hit a liner to second base, and a quick throw from Schoop back to Torkelson doubled-off Hayes to empty the bases.

Gregory Soto came in to seal the victory. I noticed that, as he was warming up in the bullpen, he was throwing pitches while not wearing a hat... oh, lefties! You’re so wacky. Soto was feeling it tonight, as he dispatched the Pirates in a 1-2-3 save, about as refreshingly boring as they come.

That’s an Impressive List

A Meeting of the Minds (and possibly Marlboros)

Observations and Notes

  • Originally, Tarik Skubal was announced as the starter. Then, it was anticipated that there was going to be a delay partway through the game if it started on time, Wily Peralta was announced as the replacement. But after the game was delayed and the storms rolled through Pittsburgh tonight, and it looked like the game was going to go on uninterrupted, Skubal was back in. Let’s just say I had to re-write some stuff here a couple of times.
  • In case you missed it, Jeimer Candelario partially dislocated his shoulder when diving for a ball on Sunday. I play rec-league softball, mostly third base, and I can honestly tell you I don’t think I’ll ever dive for a ball. “What, that ball’s going past me very quickly? It’s more than three feet from where I was initially standing? I shall congratulate the batter on his well-earned base hit.”
  • On this day in 1866, about a thousand Fenians raided and plundered two towns on the border between Vermont and Canada East (now Québec). The goal of the Fenians, a group of Irish Republicans living in the United States, was to put pressure on the United Kingdom to withdraw from Ireland. (They were not successful in their goal.)