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Royals 7, Tigers 4: Tarik Skubal was awful again

The bullpen wasn’t good either, but hey, Torkelson and Clemens homered.

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Detroit Tigers Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

A brutal day from the Tigers’ pitching staff led them to a series loss against the Kansas City Royals. If you, like many fans, weren’t able to watch the game due to it to being exclusive to the Peacock streaming service, well you were better off in the end.

Tarik Skubal’s recent trend of bad starts did not end on Sunday. He was flat out terrible in this one, as was much of the Tigers’ pen. Without some pretty good defense this could’ve blown up into a complete laugher at a number of points.

The left-hander spun a quick first inning, and after Riley Greene and Victor Reyes struck out, Harold Castro and Javier Báez followed with singles. The Tigers had a chance at an early lead, but Willi Castro struck out on three straight fastballs to squander the opportunity. They wouldn’t really get another as Skubal immediately collapsed in the second inning.

Skubal started off giving up a solo shot to Edward Olivares on a slider up over the plate in a 2-1 count. He then walked Vinnie Pasquantino. Michael Taylor grounded into a force with Pasquantino out at second, but Emmanuel Rivera followed with a a two-run shot to left center field just out of the reach of a leaping Riley Greene. Just like that it was 3-0 and the Tarik Skubal concern meter was sounding alarms. Nicky Lopez followed with a single but was cut down by Tucker Barnhart trying to steal second, and Cam Gallagher grounded out to end the inning.

The Tigers went quickly in the bottom half, and the top of the third started with Skubal walking Whit Merrifield. Things looked like they might get out of hand, but Skubal picked off Merrifield and got Andrew Benintendi on a ground out and Bobby Witt Jr. on a pop-up to settle things down.

Riley Greene singled with one out in the bottom of the third, but he was caught trying to steal second, and Victor Reyes struck out. The Tigers were having no luck at all with Singer as Reyes’ strikeout was the right-hander’s fifth through three innings of work.

Skubal had settled down in the fourth, getting three quick outs to get his pitch count back in shape, but Singer came back in the bottom of the inning and punched out Harold and Willi Castro, with a Javy Báez strikeout sandwiched between them. The Tigers were frozen on well located sinkers, and whiffing badly at Singer’s slider. The right-hander has not been good at all over his last five starts, but the Tigers’ offense has seemingly helped numerous struggling pitchers get right this season.

A lengthy nine pitch battle opened the fifth inning, with Rivera again winning out, this time serving a changeup into left field for a single. Nicky Lopez dropped a sacrifice bunt to move him into scoring position. Gallagher followed, fouling off the first three pitches he saw. A fastball went wide of the mark and then Gallager fouled off three more pitches. Skubal was mixing his pitches, but still struggling to get anything inside to the right-handers and instead just working up and down over the middle of the plate. Instead of whiffs, Royals’ hitters were getting the bat on just about everything. Eventually, Gallagher lined out to Greene in center field, bringing up Whit Merrifield.

Skubal missed with sliders away, still leaving the breaking ball wide to his arm side, and Merrifield had a 3-1 count when the lefty dropped a slider for a strike at the bottom of the zone. A sinker and then a slider were fouled off in the 3-2 count, and Skubal’s pitch count was spiraling toward 90 pitches. Finally Skubal left a changeup down and away, nowhere close to a strike, and Merrifield took first base. Andrew Benintendi got a sinker down and in, and managed to spray a hot ground ball down the left field line for a double, scoring Rivera and moving Merrifield to third. That was all for Skubal after another bad start. Whether it’s his arm slot or just a timing issue, the lefty’s command is just shot right now. He looks like he’s just steering everything now and regularly out of rhythm, and his excellent start to the season rapidly becoming a distant memory.

Wily Peralta took over against Bobby Witt Jr. looking to snuff any further fires from the Royals. Instead he threw three straight balls well wide of the mark to start the AB. Peralta grooved a 3-0 fastball and Witt took it for a strike, but fouled off the next two pitches and finally the Tigers’ right-handed capitulated with a slider in the dirt that was only saved by a nice block from Barnhart from going to the backstop. Olivares stepped to the dish with the bases juiced and two outs, and then watched four straight pitches go wild as Peralta walked in a run. The fact that this was on Peacock started to seem like a good idea at this point.

Peralta finally found the plot, striking out Pasquantino on a called strike three, but the damage was done, and it was all self-inflicted. Skubal ended with 4.2 IP, 5 ER, 5 H, 3 BB, 1 SO. In other words, awful.

Finally, as the game veered out of reach for an offense that has rarely scored more than three runs, the Tigers broke through. Candelario led off the bottom of the inning with a sharp single to center. Spencer Torkelson worked a full count, and then turned on sinker on the inner edge and drove it out to left center field for his fifth home run of the year. It was the rookie first baseman’s first home run since May 18.

Momentarily shaken, Singer walked Kody Clemens, who rarely walks, and the Tigers were in business again with no outs. Unfortunately Tucker Barnhart struck out and Riley Greene smoked another drive to center, but this time into the glove of a waiting Michael Taylor. That left it up to Victor Reyes.

Singer fell behind 3-0 before finally grooving a fastball, but Reyes was taking all the way. Another sinker down was grounded sharply to Witt at shortstop, and the rookie just clanged it off his glove. Clemens was now at second with two outs, and Harold Castro stepped to the plate representing the tying run. Castro worked his way into a full count as Singer was now the one struggling with his command. A pair of foul balls followed as the right-hander’s pitch count climbed toward 100 pitches, and eventually Singer gave in walking Castro to load the bases.

That brought Javier Báez to the plate only nine days since launching a grand slam in Arizona. Mike Matheny had seen enough from Singer, and went to get him, inserting right-hander Jose Cuas to face the Tigers’ shortstop. Báez got a slider away in a 1-1 count and nailed a sinking line drive to right that Merrifield snared with a nice sliding catch to to turn the Tigers away.

Peralta settled down coming out for the sixth. He gave up a two-out single to Nicky Lopez but got Cam Gallagher to fly out to center to end the inning. Jackson Kowar took over for the Royals in the bottom half and set Greene, Candelario, and Torkelson down in order with some hard contact right at Royals’ fielders.

Jason Foley took over in the seventh, and was very shaky. He allowed a soft single to Merrifield, who, I’ll remind you, is having a terrible year when not facing the Tigers, to start the bottom of the seventh. A high chopper from Benintendi toward third was hauled in by Candelario but there was no chance to get him at first. Foley got Witt to pop out, and Olivares lined out softly to Báez, leaving it to Pasquantino. After missing badly in the dirt with a fastball, Foley hit him with a low 90’s changeup to load the bases and then, missing badly, he walked Taylor to force in a run. Yes, that’s two runs on bases loaded walks for the kitties today.

A.J. Hinch turned to Will Vest and he eventually froze Emmanuel Rivera with a fastball to escape any further trouble.

Dylan Coleman came on for the Royals in the bottom half of the inning, and Kody Clemens greeted him with a home run right down the right field line on the first pitch he saw. The shot, Clemens’ second of the season, made it 6-3, and we were reminded again that the Royals’ bullpen is quite bad. Of course we wouldn’t be bragging on the Tigers’ pen either when all was said and done.

Tucker Barnhart illustrated the point drilling a double into the right field corner. Riley Greene grounded out, moving Barnhart to third with one out, and the Tigers really needed to get at least that run home. Victor Reyes got it done, lifting a fly ball to center field deep enough for Barnhart to tag and score from third, and it was 6-4 Royals. Good to see some fight at least.

Vest was an absolute mess in the eighth. His velocity was down and he couldn’t locate anything. He was able to escape unscathed thanks to a fantastic diving catch by Báez on a Benintendi line drive, followed by a double play turn started by Báez to escape a bases loaded, no outs jam. Chris Fetter really has his work cut out from him as multiple pitchers are falling apart as we near mid-season.

Willi Castro beat out an infield single with one out in the bottom of the eighth, and Candelario followed by getting a four pitch walk from right-hander Taylor Clarke. That brought up Torkelson again with a chance to seize control of the game...but he grounded into a double play to end the inning.

Michael Fulmer continued the trend of lackluster relief appearances, leaking a run in the top of the ninth, and the Tigers went quietly in the bottom half to lose the game, and the series. The Royals are now just a game back of Detroit in the AL Central’s cellar.