'It was a step forward for him': Twins rain on Tarik Skubal's parade in Tigers' 7-3 loss
Detroit — Matt Shoemaker doused any fire that might have existed in the Tigers’ bats for five innings on Friday night, before Mother Nature took care of the rest.
The Twins starter — a Trenton native and former Eastern Michigan standout — continued his domination of his hometown team, giving up four hits over five innings while striking out five and walking a pair, keeping the Tigers off balance.
Even when the Tigers showed some signs of life after Shoemaker was replaced, a second rain delay washed away any pop in the bats. The Twins defeated the Tigers, 7-3, at Comerica Park, wasting a solid effort from starter Tarik Skubal.
“He’s crafty with how he uses this stuff,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said of the Twins starter. “He doesn’t make a ton of mistakes. He moves the ball around and he throws a lot of secondary pitches. He was using the split more than the slider and he was getting our guys a little bit off balance.
“I thought we did a good job responding once they got to the pen. The first rain delay probably cost Shoemaker another inning of work because he had plenty of pitches left from the looks of it. But I think his ability to get a few swings on the split was pretty effective tonight.”
Shoemaker, who is now 6-1 in eight starts against the Tigers, was in control through four innings and, after a 35-minute rain delay, came back to work a scoreless fifth. Shoemaker (2-3) was replaced by Cody Stashak and the Tigers took advantage, pulling within a run at 4-3 on a three-run home run from second baseman Willi Castro in the sixth.
But the rain came again. The second delay lasted an hour and nine minutes and any potential offensive production disappeared, a disappointing turn of events after the Tigers (9-24) scored 22 runs over three games in Boston before returning home.
The Tigers were just 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position, the only hit coming on Castro’s homer.
Skubal was effective, going five innings while striking out eight, allowing four hits and two runs while walking two. However, it was the leadoff man in each of the first two innings that got to the Tigers starter.
The Twins (12-19) opened the game with a home run to right from left-fielder Kyle Garlick on a 2-2 pitch. Skubal responded by striking out the next three – Josh Donaldson, Nelson Cruz and Mitch Garver. To open the second, the Twins extended their lead to 2-0 when second baseman Jorge Polanco belted a home run to left. Skubal then struck out two of the next three to limit any potential problems.
“I thought he threw the ball well,” Hinch said. “He misplaced a couple sliders early for solo homers, but I thought overall he threw it pretty well. It was a step forward for him. I thought his fastball was much better, his secondary pitches were good. … I was very proud of his effort tonight.”
Meanwhile, the Tigers’ hitters couldn’t take advantage of back-to-back singles from Miguel Cabrera and Niko Goodrum to begin the bottom of the second. Castro struck out then Jacoby Jones grounded into an inning-ending double play.
The Tigers threatened again in the fourth when Jeimer Candelario drew a leadoff walk and advanced to third on Cabrera’s second hit, a sharp single up the middle. It was Cabrera's 2,874th career to pass Babe Ruth for 45th on major league baseball's all-time hits leaderboard.
But Goodrum and Castro followed with back-to-back strikeouts and Jones flew out to right to end the inning.
After the first rain delay, Skubal’s night was done. He lamented the two runs he gave up and the fact his pitch count climbed quickly.
“It’s not where I want to be,” Skubal said. “I want to continue to pitch more efficiently and deeper into ballgames. It helps the bullpen out, helps the offense out. Quick innings, guys want to play behind stuff like that and obviously I’m still trying to do that, creating weak contact and getting guys out in three or four pitches instead of six, seven or eight.”
The Twins took advantage of Skubal’s departure as Bryan Garcia issued a pair of walks to start the sixth. With runners on first and second, Max Kepler singled up the middle to score Polanco followed by a ground out to third from Andrelton Simmons, which scored Miguel Sano to give the Twins a 4-0 lead.
The Tigers pulled within a run on Castro’s three-run homer before delay No. 2. When play resumed in the seventh, the Twins extended the lead to 5-3 on an RBI double from Polanco, added another run in the eighth on a solo shot from Kepler before getting one more in the ninth on an RBI-single from Sano.
The Tigers managed only one base runner – a walk for Cabrera in the eighth – over the final three innings.