The Detroit Tigers came into this Sunday afternoon tilt against the Chicago White Sox, looking for a series sweep. Tarik Skubal was a bit rattled early but settled down. Meanwhile, the White Sox pitchers struggled to locate the strike zone, in particular starter Michael Kopech who was chased early. Still, the struggles of the Tigers bats with runners in scoring position reared their ugly heads and they nearly let the sweep slip away. Fortunately, a late home run from Spencer Torkelson saved the day as they broke out the brooms for a 3-2 win.
The first inning looked like it might be heading for another good start for Detroit, as they put their first two runners on, with a stolen base by Akil Baddoo as the White Sox continued to struggle holding runners. But the Tigers got too aggressive and had a failed double steal and a strikeout turn what might have been runners at second and third with no one out, into a runner at third with two outs. A Kerry Carpenter lineout ended the threat, but it would only be the start of White Sox pitchers struggling to find the zone and the Tigers showing their struggles to drive runners home.
The White Sox got on the board first in the bottom of the inning as they ambushed Tarik Skubal a bit. Tim Anderson led off with a double over the head of Baddoo, and though it looked like Skubal might get out of it, a two-out single from Eloy Jimenez brought in Anderson. Skubal looked to be a bit rattled by that as he gave up a walk and then another RBI single to Elvis Andrus to make the score 2-0 Chicago. After a pep talk from pitching coach Chris Fetter, Skubal got the third out to stop the bleeding. Kind of a classic lackluster start from Skubal. But as usual, once he settled into his outing, he was nails.
As wild as Michael Kopech was in the first inning, he was worse in the second, missing the zone with his first nine pitches to again put two on with no one out. But, like a toddler trying to force the same ends of two magnets together, the Tigers seemed to completely refuse to take advantage of the White Sox's gifts. It started with Tyler Nevin striking out and was followed by Zack Short flying out to left field to suddenly bring up a two-out situation. That Carson Kelly followed with a two-run double almost felt like an accident to tie the game. Akil Baddoo followed with a five-pitch walk and that was the end of the day for Kopech. Tanner Banks was summoned from the bullpen and retired McKinstry to end the threat.
This pattern of bad things happening when runners got on and continued for the next couple of innings. Kerry Carpenter hit a one-out single in the third and stole second, the Tigers again continuing to dare the White Sox to throw them out, but he was stranded there. Then in the fourth inning, Tyler Nevin led off with a single but he also ended the inning as he was thrown out trying to steal second with two outs.
Tanner Banks managed to pitch through the first two outs of the fifth inning before reaching the end of his day. Jimmy Lambert was called in to replace him and after he walked Spencer Torkelson with two outs and reached a 2-1 count on Carpenter, he called for the trainers, suffering an apparent injury, leading to his quick departure. Bryan Shaw came on and retired Carpenter, making it three straight innings of the Tigers getting a runner on base and failing to score.
Fortunately for the Tigers, Tarik Skubal was locked in after his rough first inning. He allowed only a single and a walk while striking out four in his next four frames, pumping his fastball up to 98 on a hot afternoon, and reaching five innings pitched on just 73 pitches.
In the top of the sixth inning, the carnival of misery was back at it. Matt Vierling led off with a single, and Nevin drew a one-out walk to put two men on. Zack Short struck out and then Kelly again nearly “accidentally” scored more runs, popping a flyball into shallow center that looked like it might drop, but Trayce Thompson laid out and caught it to retire the side. Jimenez led off the bottom of the inning with a double, and Skubal was in a jam with the lead on the line. But he worked out of it with a strikeout, groundout, and a strikeout to keep the game tied.
The Tigers finally broke through in the seventh inning against new pitcher Aaron Bummer as Spencer Torkelson launched a two-out, 436ft, 110mph home run to give the Tigers a 3-2 lead. It was his 25th home run of the season and the first time a Tigers player has reached the 25 HR mark since 2017 when Justin Upton (28) and Nick Castellanos (26) both eclipsed that mark. Carpenter reached after being hit by a pitch up and in and advanced to second on a passed ball, but of course, he was stranded there.
Skubal finished off his day with a 1-2-3 seventh inning on three ground balls. His final line was pretty solid: 7 innings, 97 pitches, 5 hits, 2 earned runs, 2 walks, 7 strikeouts. Parker Meadows led off the eighth inning with a walk...look I’m tired of writing the same story over and over so we’ll just cut to the chase, he was stranded*. Jason Foley took over in the bottom of the eighth inning and pitched a clean 1-2-3 inning.
The Tigers went quietly in the top of the inning, turning things over to Alex Lange in the bottom of the ninth. Moncada led off with a single and though they couldn't quite turn the double play on Gavin Sheets, after a nerve-racking walk to Yasmani Grandal, Lange induced the game-ending double play from Oscar Colas, thanks to a nifty Baez-inspired play from Ibanez, to secure the series sweep.
No, it wasn't pretty, and the Tigers still have some fatal flaws they will need to correct next year, but a win is a win, a sweep is a sweep, and beating the White Sox always feels good. Enjoy your Labor Day weekend Tiger fans!
With their sweep, the Tigers pushed their record against the AL Central to 28-15. They already have secured a winning record overall vs. their division and they need only win 1 more out of the three remaining vs. Chicago to give them a winning record against all four division opponents. With the win today, they also mathematically prevent a 100-loss season.
Don’t ask about their record against the AL East...
The Tigers walked nine times in the game, and overall were 1-13 with runners in scoring position, with a whopping 10 runners left on base.
Enjoy the Rick Flair “Woo” from Tork on this moonshot.
*(Okay yes, Meadows was actually thrown out instead of stranded but I wrote that line as soon as he reached base, daring the Tigers to make me change it. While they technically did, I don’t reward failure.)