'All of us need to do a better job': Skubal gives up 3 HRs as Tigers rocked by Yankees
New York — He probably didn’t mean it to be as ominous as it sounded. He was just telling the blunt truth about his baseball team.
“We’re entering May,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said Friday before the Tigers took an 10-0 beating from the Yankees. “We’ve had a month-long look at these guys. Guys are going to have to step up and do well when they get an opportunity. There’s not a lot of free playing time. If guys start playing well, I am going to play them.
“We can’t just sit around and wait and play fairness.”
That’s called putting players on notice. And why wouldn’t he? The Tigers have lost 13 of the last 15. They were outscored 24-1 in the last 48 hours. It’s been a month and the Tigers are already 11 games under .500.
"We have to be realistic with where we are at," Hinch said after the game. "We're not doing enough positive things right now to feel good about anything. You don't want to make rash decisions.
"But after a month you can look at it, look at your options. It's pretty frustrating."
The ship may not be sinking, but it’s taking on water fast. So, yes, players are on notice.
Rookie lefty Tarik Skubal is on notice.
In his first start after two tandem outings out of the bullpen, Skubal displayed the same inconsistencies that have plagued him all season. He is struggling to repeat his delivery and release point and consequently, he’s falling behind in counts and leaving too many pitches over the heart of the plate.
"I just didn't do a good job of executing pitches," said Skubal, who needed 77 pitches to get through three innings.
He got tagged for four runs, including three missile-shot home runs. Clint Frazier, who was hitting .150, hit a first-pitch fastball (93 mph) into the seats in left. The ball left his bat with an exit velocity of 106.7 mph.
Aaron Judge, who hit two home runs on the night, crushed a fastball over the center field wall — exit velocity 111.3 mph. And Aaron Hicks lashed a hanging splitter (101 mph exit velocity). Earlier, Giancarlo Stanton hit a double in the right-center gap that left his bat at 115.7 mph.
"It's all a part of the process in a full season," Skubal said. "There's things to learn from and I will learn from it. It's always a learning tool, never a step back."
Skubal doesn't seem to be pitching with much confidence right now. He's given up eight home runs on the year and his ERA has climbed over 6.0. Hinch has been an advocate of developing players at the big-league level, and he's not backing off that with Skubal.
"The level isn't the issue," Hinch said. "It's that consistency is being asked out of him at the highest level and I do think he can figure it out here. ...We're watching a kid develop at this level and there's going to be some hiccups along the way."
Hinch believes Skubal has the mental toughness to take these early-season punches, and he has never doubted the quality of his stuff.
"Developing at the big-league level is super tricky both mentally and physically," Hinch said. "Tarik is an example of that. But he's more than equipped to pitch at this level. ...We believe in him. I hope he can look back at these times as a stepping stone toward better times.
"We don't think this is the pitcher he is. But it's the pitcher he is right now."
Skubal isn't the only one on notice.
Outfielders Victor Reyes and JaCoby Jones have seen their playing time shrink. Harold Castro got the start in left field Friday. Rule 5 rookie Akil Baddoo is a regular starter against right-handed pitching.
Willi Castro has lost his shortstop job to Niko Goodrum and is transitioning to second base. But neither is producing anything offensively. Goodrum struck out three times Friday and is hitting under .200.
Of course, it was the wrong night to try to get untracked offensively. Yankees ace Gerrit Cole brought his A-game — the 98 mph fastballs, the knuckle-curve and the slider. It was a mismatch against a scuffling Tigers’ offense coming off a doubleheader in Chicago where they managed five hits and were punched-out 22 times in 14 total innings.
Cole struck out 12 and allowed four singles in six innings. He struck out six straight Tigers hitters in one stretch. Here’s how non-competitive the Tigers’ at-bats were: Cole threw 87 pitches and got 21 swings-and-misses and 17 called strikes.
Even if you want to give the Tigers a scheduling loss for this one — they didn’t get to New York until 4:30 a.m. after a long day and two losses in Chicago Thursday — 18 strikeouts, one walk, four singles, four home runs allowed is tough to excuse.
"It's not a good feeling," Hinch said. "Obviously, all of us need to do a better job."
The 18 strikeouts ties the Yankees' franchise record for punch-outs in a nine-inning game.
The Yankees scored six runs off the Tigers’ bullpen, which may also be in for some alterations soon. Derek Holland, after a rough outing in Chicago, is on notice. Buck Farmer, who gave up a grand slam to Judge in the fourth inning Friday, is on notice.
A bright spot was lefty Tyler Alexander. He gave up a home run to the first hitter he faced — lefty Rougned Odor — but that was the only mark in his three innings.