'Saw some good stuff': White Sox spoil Tarik Skubal's debut, extend Tigers' skid to 7
Chicago — Debuts can’t all have fairy tale endings. Most of them don’t, actually. But they aren’t often career-defining either.
Left-hander Tarik Skubal, who has two years of pro ball experience and none above Double-A, endured a rude big-league baptism in the nose-diving Tigers’ 10-4 loss to the White Sox Tuesday.
Detroit's losing streak is at seven.
"Debuts, you know, emotions can be going," catcher Austin Romine said. "He's got a good head on his shoulders. He knows what he wants to do, knows how he wants to attack. Maybe he wasn't feeling like himself all the time out there, but that's the thing with debuts.
"I saw some good stuff, a really good arm from the left side. We're excited to see the next one."
After battling COVID-19 and missing all of summer camp, Skubal, the No. 5-rated prospect in the Tigers’ system, is still building his pitch count and wasn’t expected to throw much more than 50 pitches. But it took him 30 to get through the first inning.
Tim Anderson, who hit two home runs off Matthew Boyd Monday, hit Skubal’s third pitch, a 94-mph fastball, 422 feet into the left-field seats. Welcome to The Show, kid.
Skubal gave up back-to-back singles to Yoan Moncada and Jose Abreu before he could even get his bearings. His fastball velocity started to get back up where it typically is —97 mph — and he started to mix in his slider and curveball more effectively.
He induced a 6-4-3 double-play from Eloy Jimenez and, after walking Edwin Encarnacion, he got former Tiger James McCann on a fly ball to the track in right-center field.
"Give up a lead-off home run on a good pitch, you just tip your cap on that one," Skubal said. "Then the next two guys get on and you're just trying to settle down, make some quality pitches and get out of the inning — which I did."
Things didn’t get any better for him, though. He gave up three more runs in the second inning on three singles and another RBI knock by Anderson, a double. His first big-league pitching line probably won’t be framed for posterity — two innings, four runs, seven hits and a walk.
"I wish I could have a couple of pitches back, but that's part of the game," he said. "I was nervous going in, which I feel is pretty normal. But once I started playing catch, it just felt like baseball — just go out and compete."
He did notch his first strikeout, ending his outing by fanning Jimenez. But he got just six swings-and-misses on 26 swings, which had to be unnerving for a guy who racked up 212 strikeouts in 145 minor-league innings. The exit velocity on the 11 balls put in play against him was 93.6 mph — lots of hard contact, in other words.
"We're probably going to learn something (about Skubal) from every start," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "That's a hot-hitting team over there and looking down the road, I think his next start will be against Cleveland — they're no picnic either.
"He's going to have to go through it. I think the kid has a great arm. Some pitches that he threw were dominating and they got after him pretty good, too."
Not the debut he dreamed of, for sure. But, as they say, only one way to go from here.
"You learn a lot about yourself and how you are going to compete," Skubal said. "You learn how the adrenaline flow is a little bit different and how to control that."
It's hard to believe just eight days ago the Tigers were 9-5.
"They're professionals and they understand what their job is," Romine said when asked about the mood in the clubhouse. "You come and try to win a game every day. We're not really getting that down right now. Just trying to find some new ways to some ballgames."
Jonathan Schoop, hitting in the clean-up spot since C.J. Cron was lost for the season (knee surgery), hit a 440-foot home run in the second and collected two other singles off starter Dylan Cease.
He has five hits in the two games.
The second run was created by Romine's hustle. He doubled in the third and alertly tagged and advanced to third on a fly out by Isaac Paredes — scoring on a sacrifice fly by Niko Goodrum.
Lefty Daniel Norris relieved Skubal and gave the Tigers four solid innings. His fastball was hitting 95 in his first inning and averaged 93.4 mph. The only blemish on his night came in the fourth. With two outs, Anderson singled, Moncada walked and Jose Abreu lined a double in the gap scoring both runners.
Those were the only base runners against Norris. He had four strikeouts.
"He's probably been pitching the best of anybody over these last few days," Romine said. "He ate up some innings in the middle of the game and kept us close. He knows how to pitch and he's been around the league.
"It was the first time we saw some off-balance, uncomfortable at-bats coming from that other side."
Norris also did something few Tigers’ pitchers have done in this season — he retired Anderson. After homering twice Monday, Anderson homered, doubled, singled twice and drove in three on Tuesday.
"If we knew how to approach him, he wouldn't be getting all these hits," Gardenhire said. "We haven't come up with that answer yet. The kid is a great hitter."
The Tigers scored twice and got within two in the eighth, but that didn't last long.
Lefty reliever Gregory Soto entered in the bottom of the eighth on a scoreless run of 10⅓ innings — and didn't record an out. After a walk, a hit-batsman and two singles, he left with a run in and the bases still loaded.
All three of those runs would score, too.
More bad news: The Tigers lost the services of utility man Harold Castro in the fifth. He pulled up lame trying to beat out an infield ground ball. The initial report called it left hamstring tightness.
Gardenhire said Castro was going to get an MRI Wednesday.