Tarik Skubal stymies Yankees as Tigers complete 3-game sweep
Detroit — The unofficial start of summer is here, Comerica Park capacity restrictions are gone, and the Yankees are swept.
The weekend’s three-game meltdown by New York was a reminder of past playoff poundings, while the young Tigers continued to show promise.
Starter Tarik Skubal tossed six shutout innings on Sunday, leading the Tigers to a 6-2 win against the New York Yankees.
Baseball is slowly inching its way back to life in downtown Detroit, further witnessed by 8,000 fans, the final one before full capacity will be allowed for the Tigers next home game June 8.
Skubal struck out eight batters in six scoreless innings, becoming the first Tigers rookie to strike out eight or more batters in three consecutive starts.
The left-hander threw a first-pitch strike to 19 of the 23 batters he faced, including a stretch of eight straight before throwing ball one to his final batter of the afternoon. He then got Gleyber Torres to fly out on the next pitch, his 95th and final one of a solid month.
“Going right at guys is something important to me,” Skubal said. “And just being able to put guys away with two strikes was big.”
Meanwhile, Willi Castro continued to break out of a slump with a three-run double in the third inning. He reached base three times Sunday after a two-hit night Saturday.
The Tigers have won 13 of their last 20 games heading into a six-game road trip this week against Milwaukee and the Chicago White Sox.
“This has been a few weeks now where we’ve put some things together and we’ve had our stretch of good and only spurts of bad,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said. “The players start to feel that momentum and feel that excitement.”
After a rough April, Skubal’s May was strong. The 24-year-old struck out 39 batters while issuing nine walks in 27 innings, good for a 3.33 ERA.
Skubal allowed the game’s first two batters to reach, but then got Aaron Judge to ground into a double play. He escaped danger, but Hinch said starting games as well as he finishes outings is the charge for the rookie.
Skubal showed his arsenal by striking out Giancarlo Stanton and Judge out in the third inning on six pitches, part of an eight-pitch inning that was his best. During the six-pitch domination of two of baseball’s best premier power hitters, Skubal threw them each a pitch in the 70s, one in the 80s and another in the 90s.
“He really got strong as the outing went along,” Hinch said. Teamed with brilliant recent outings from Casey Mize and Spencer Turnbull — along with two home runs from Spencer Torkelson on Saturday for West Michigan and continued excellence from Riley Greene in Erie — young Tigers are giving reasons for hope.
The beatdown of the Bronx Bombers wasn’t the only reason to reminisce, as Miguel Cabrera ran through an early stop sign on the base paths.
But Tigers fans could smile this time, as Cabrera scored from first base on a two-run Nomar Mazara double to make it 2-0 in the first.
“We joked with Miggy in the dugout, you know, we’re collecting all these balls for him,” Hinch said. “He probably just set the record for most times running through a stop sign in the history of baseball.
“That’s not fact-checked, but that’s how we’re talking to him.”
Castro’s double down the third-base line capped the four-run third inning to make it 6-0.
Detroit had chances to put it away, but Cabrera and Eric Haase stranded the bases loaded in the second and sixth innings, respectively.
And how a little bullpen fragility for a trip down memory lane?
Bryan Garcia allowed a New York run in the eighth inning and then was relieved by Michael Fulmer. With two outs and two on, Gary Sanchez plated Judge on a grounder to shortstop. Rookie shortstop Zack Short’s throw got past Jonathan Schoop, but Sanchez was thrown out at second trying to advance.
The impressive collection of Yankees fans in attendance groaned as Sanchez quickly realized he was toast. The lead was down to 6-2 but a full-blown meltdown was averted by the Yankees miscue.
Then, in the ninth, Fulmer allowed hits to the first two batters, set down the next two, but walked Stanton to load the bases.
The powerful Judge represented the tying run, but Fulmer got him to watch a third strike at 1-2 for the win.
Cue Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” and good times didn’t seem as far away as a month before.
Yankee Stadium fans will be ready to boo its confounding team this week against Tampa Bay, the American League’s defending champions and its best team.
Meanwhile, the fans will be allowed to show up in full force now at Comerica Park.
Stringing together more settings like Sunday — with the sun shining, the Yankees floundering and prospects starting to figure out the big leagues — would surely start to bring back some starving sports fans.
Matt Schoch writes for PlayMichigan.com and also freelances for The Detroit News.