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Tigers 4, Rays 2: Rogers rakes, Brieske saves

Tarik Skubal looked great, and the bullpen held on with their fingernails for the win. Toenails too, probably.

Tampa Bay Rays v Detroit Tigers Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

After a lacklustre showing on Friday night, the Detroit Tigers looked to rebound for the Saturday afternoon Fiesta Tigres game with over thirty thousand in attendance. In the end, the Tigers won 4-2 in a nail-biter of a finish, with a very unexpected pitcher getting the save.

(No, it wasn’t Zack Short. Try again.)

Tarik Skubal made his sixth start of the season after missing the first three months of the season with left arm fatigue. His comeback has been up-and-down: in three of his starts before today he gave up no runs, and in the other two he gave up four to the Marlins and seven to the Royals. We know he has the potential to be great, but he needs to be able to clamp down and stop a big inning without becoming completely unraveled.

Facing Skubal was Aaron Civale, making his first start for the Rays after a deadline-day deal with Cleveland; the Guardians gave up first-base prospect Kyle Manzardo,’s 37th-ranked prospect, to get him. Coming into today’s tilt, Civale had given up one run in his previous two starts combined, going eight and six innings against the Royals and White Sox respectively. Staying healthy has been a problem for Civale in his major-league career, and he missed about a month with a left oblique strain earlier this season.

The Rays got on the board in the second with a pair of singles and a pair of errors by Riley Greene for a 1-0 lead; the run was, thus, unearned.

The Tigers looked to answer back in the bottom of the inning with a pair of singles by Miguel Cabrera and Andy Ibáñez to lead things off. But then Akil Baddoo and Zack Short struck out and you had to think, “Oh shoot, not this again” — but then Jake Rogers rode in to the rescue.

Look at Miggy with those wheels, scoring from second on a single.

Skubal settled down nicely in the third, getting a strikeout of Randy Arozarena on a changeup that made him look pretty silly. He ended the inning firing a 99 mph four-seam fastball right down the pipe that Curtis Mead couldn’t catch up with. Both his cutter and changeup were sizzling early on, too. Great to have him back.

Ibáñez started off the fourth with a single, and Baddoo smacked a double to right to put runners on second and third. After Short struck out, The Sarge came up big again, doubling in both Ibáñez and Baddoo for a 3-1 Tigers lead.

In the bottom of the fifth, Spencer Torkelson spanked a line drive at 108 mph straight to Arozarena in left field. Kerry Carpenter followed that with a double, and that was the end of Civale’s day. Kevin Kelly and his sidearm sinkers, sweepers and sliders took over and got a strikeout and a popout to end the inning.

Skubal’s day was done after one out in the top of the sixth, after giving sandwiching a single and a walk around a popout. José Cisnero took over, despite being somewhat shaky lately; he struck out Luke Raley but then hit Mead with a pitch to load the bases with two out. But Manuel Margot struck out on a down-and-away slider in the dirt, and the threat was extinguished.

Robert Stephenson replaced Kevin Kelly for the bottom of the sixth, and Baddoo greeted him rather rudely with a monster line-drive home run way up and off the right-field foul pole for a 4-1 lead; the hit left Baddoo’s bat at 112 mph.

Cisnero stuck around to start the seventh, walking José Siri but striking out Josh Lowe. He then gave way to Jason Foley, who allowed a pair of singles to load the bases with one out. Isaac Paredes came to the plate, fouled off a whole bunch of sinkers, and eventually grounded into a 6-4-3 double play... or so we thought. The throw to first, upon review, apparently was a hair too late, although the replay wasn’t terribly convincing; instead of an inning-ending double play with a 4-1 lead, it was runners at the corners with two out and a 4-2 game. Fortunately, Foley forced a flyout for the final out of the frame.

In the bottom of the inning against Jake Diekman, Riley Greene reached on an error; after another Torkelson lineout, Carpenter singled to put a pair of runners on. But then Cabrera struck out, Ibáñez flew out, and that was that.

Tyler Holton, who’s been nails so far this year, took over for the top of the eighth. Strikeout, flyout, lineout, seven pitches. Love it.

With one out in the eighth, Short blooped a double to right and he stole third base without a throw. But the insurance run was not to be, as Rogers struck out and Vierling fouled out to deep right.

Alex Lange came on for the save in the ninth — and, as we always used to say when José Valverde appeared, “Hold on to your butts.” On cue, Lange walked Christian Bethancourt and Lowe to start the inning... but then he got a double-play grounder which, somewhat unusually, got outs at third and first. He then walked Wander Franco with two outs and a runner on second, and that was the end of Lange’s day.

It was all up to Beau Brieske, of all people, to nail the thing down, facing Paredes of all people. Brieske struck Paredes out swinging on a head-high 1-2 fastball, he earned the first save of his career, and that was the ballgame.

Please Adjust Your Radio Dials

Wasn’t the Super Bowl, like, a couple of weeks ago? Sheesh.

Well, That’s Depressing... But Not Surprising

Numbers and Notes

  • Andrew Vasquez was waived by the Phillies and picked up by the Tigers; to make room for him on the 26-man roster, Trey Wingenter was optioned to Toledo. Vasquez is a lefty who’s been around quite a bit in the last couple of years, with stints in the Dodgers, Giants, Blue Jays and Phillies organizations, mostly splitting time between Triple-A and the majors.
  • Vasquez has a 2.27 ERA in 39 ⅔ innings so far this year. So you might be wondering, why the heck did Philadelphia cut him? Well, so far this year he’s walked a bit over 3 and struck out about 7 per nine innings, and his Fielding-Independent Pitching (FIP, which gives you an idea about what his ERA should be) is 4.30. He’s a flyball pitcher who generally limits hard contact... so, maybe he’s a pretty good fit for Comerica Park and its spacious outfield.
  • Curtis Mead, who got a hit on Friday night on the first pitch he saw in the big leagues, had his family arrive from Australia for today’s game. They couldn’t make it for his debut on Friday night as they were still in transit, though.
  • “Say Say Say” is pretty underrated. The chord progression is, like, normal, but, like, also not normal, you know?
  • The final match of the GT20 cricket tournament starts at noon EDT on Sunday. Honestly, if you just watch some of it, you’ll get the hang of the basics pretty quickly. (It streams on CBC Gem, which I think should also work in the US.) You’ll find it has a pretty similar rhythm to baseball... but remember, there are only two bases, there’s no foul territory, and it’s not “pitching,” it’s “bowling.”
  • Happy 146th birthday to Canadian painter Tom Thomson, one of the founders of the legendary Group of Seven painters who revolutionized art in his native country. Thomson drowned in a canoeing accident at age 30, but his use of vivid colours while portraying landscapes (mostly in Algonquin Park) helped to form the Group’s characteristic look and his unique style was a bold departure from European predecessors.