This was just a miserably pitched game all around. Tarik Skubal blew an early lead before melting down entirely in the fourth inning, and the Tigers pen wasn’t much better. On the other hand, the Royals pitching staff was every bit as miserable. The Tigers offense fought to the last out, but fell one big hit short in a wild ninth inning as the Royals evened the series at a game apiece on Tuesday night.
A strong start for the Tigers quickly turned into a bit of a nightmare for Tarik Skubal in this one. A.J. Hinch had the lineup stacked with right-handers against lefty Daniel Lynch, with Riley Greene getting a planned night off, and it worked early on.
Andy Ibáñez flew out from the leadoff spot to open the game, but Matt Vierling knifed a single to right field, and Spencer Torkelson followed him by destroying a Lynch fastball into the fountains in left center field, and it was 2-0 Tigers as fans were still making their way to their seats.
Skubal took the mound in the bottom half pumping 96-98 mph and just overpowered the Royals for a quick 1-2-3 inning.
In the second, Javier Báez, desperately trying to figure it out after benching himself yesterday for cage work, led off with a sharp single to left and then quickly stole second base. I miss Javy on the basepaths. Miguel Cabrera drew a walk, and Eric Haase lifted a fly out to right field to get Báez to third, but Zack Short popped out and Andy Ibáñez grounded into a force out to end the half inning.
No problem. Skubal got a quick ground out from Matt Duffy and then dismantled Nick Pratto and Freddy Fermin for his second and third strikeouts of the outing.
The Tigers went in order in the top of the third, and then things started coming undone. Edward Olivares led off the bottom half with a double past Short at third base. Drew Waters popped out, but Dairon Blanco ambushed a first pitch meatball of a slider right down the middle and ripped a line drive to left field. Eric Haase didn’t get a very good read, and the ball got by him all the way to the wall for an RBI triple. Maikel Garcia lifted a fly ball out to Vierling in center, scoring Blanco, and the game was all tied up.
In the fourth, Javier Báez walked, yeah you read that right, and then stole second base as Cabrera took a called strike three at the top of the zone. Unfortunately, Haase’s struggles continued as he swung at four pitches, arguably none of them in the strike zone, and struck out swinging.
This is where the game really turned.
I won’t list all the gory details, but Skubal just fell apart. Perhaps he ran out of gas a bit, but he fell behind five batters in a row, and they went single, double, interrupted by Jake Rogers back-picking a very foolish M.J. Melendez taking a huge secondary lead at third with no outs for some reason, then a four pitch walk to Nick Pratto, double, single, triple, and then a sneaky bunt single from Blanco to plate the Royals fifth run of the inning. 7-2 Royals.
Skubal’s velocity dipped into the 93-95 mph range and he couldn’t command a thing as he turned to his secondary pitches more. Not only did the velo dip, but he lost ride on the fourseamer, and it, the sinker, and the curve all got whacked around the ballpark. The defense wasn’t great either, but Skubal just didn’t have it. There were no cheapies in the mix.
Mercifully, a Garcia line out to Vierling and a Bobby Witt Jr. pop-up ended the inning, but Skubal’s night was over. It’s obviously very early on the comeback trail for the lefty, and he’s probably in mid-March form at this point, but it was the kind of inning where you start looking for indications of tipping. The Royals were not fooled by a thing.
The Tigers did fight right back. With one out in the fifth, Ibáñez and Vierling singled, and Torkelson lifted a towering fly ball to left that just cleared the wall for his second homer and fifth RBI on the night. This, we liked a lot. The young slugger’s 14th on the year made for his second two homer game, but of course with Tork and Javy going off, this was the night pitching collapsed.
Kerry Carpenter followed him with a bid of his own but it was caught on the warning track.
Jose Cisnero took over in the bottom of the fifth and struck out the side.
The Royals turned to reliever Jonathan Heasley to open the sixth, and Báez greeted him with a hot ground ball down the third base line for a double and aggressively took third as Melendez briefly couldn’t corral the baseball. Cabrera struck out, but Akil Baddoo pinch hit for Haase against the right-hander and lifted a fly ball to right that scored Báez to make it 7-6 Royals.
The Royals came right back in the bottom half against Beau Brieske. The right-hander walked the leadoff hitter, Fermin, which is never a good sign. Drew Waters flew out but Blanco ripped a ground ball to left for a double on a first pitch slider and Maikel Garcia followed with one of his own, driving a changeup on the inner edge to center. 9-6 Royals.
Zack McKinstry led off the seventh for Ibáñez, taking over at second base, but struck out. Torkelson smoked a line drive double to right with two outs, but Carpenter struck out to end the inning. Chasen Shreve took over from Brieske in the bottom half and got three quick outs.
In the eighth, Jake Rogers drew a walk from Dylan Coleman to lead off. Báez flew out to center, but Cabrera walked to put two on with one out. Akil Baddoo grounded into a force of Nick Maton, who ran for Cabrera, at second and that left it up to pinch-hitter Riley Greene. Unfortunately he flew out to left, and that was it.
Brendan White took over in the bottom of the eighth and quickly allowed a single to Fermin and then hit Olivares with a fastball. Waters lifted a fly ball to right field and Carpenter hauled it in and gunned down Olivares trying to tag and take second. Blanco, having a day himself, ripped a fly ball off the wall in left center field that Baddoo couldn’t haul in to score Fermin, and then stole third base for good measure. A ground ball went for a single because Torkelson was positioned well off the base toward second and broke for the ball instead of covering first, and Blanco scored to make it 11-6.
Not a good night defensively for the Tigers. Báez and Carpenter excluded, just about everyone on the field had a play somewhere along the way that could’ve been made.
Once again, the high leverage crew of the Royals was atrocious, which dragged out the ninth inning a while.
Closer Scott Barlow allowed a single to McKinstry to lead off the ninth and then walked Vierling. Torkelson struck out, but Barlow walked Carpenter as well, loading the bases and bringing the tying run to the...ok just the on-deck circle. Rogers singled in McKinstry. Báez singled in Vierling. And then, Barlow walked Nick Maton to force in a run.
Suddenly it was 11-9 with the bases loaded, one out, and Baddoo and Greene coming up.
Just a hot mess all around in ye olde Paris of the Prairies. Yeah I know Saskatoon, Canada is actually the Paris of the Prairies, but Paris of the Midwest is just comically lame as a nickname. We’re many things in the Midwest, but Parisian ain’t one of ‘em.
Anyway, you already saw the score. Baddoo grounded into another force at second scoring a run to make it 11-10. But Riley Greene, after watching Barlow throw the ball all over the place, swung at a first pitch fastball on the inner edge and jammed himself, lifting a routine fly ball to center to finally end this.