Tigers ride another strong outing by Skubal to fifth straight win

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit – Rolling, rolling, rolling.

The Tigers, after a two-hour, 10-minue rain delay, rode a pair of solo home runs and another stout performance from rookie left-hander Tarik Skubal to a 4-1 win over the Texas Rangers Tuesday night at Comerica Park.

It was their fifth straight win coming out of the All-Star break. And the seventh straight loss for the Rangers.

"Our players have done an incredible job of staying in the moment of the day's game," manager AJ Hinch said. "That's all we care about is today's game. And another example is when you get delayed at the last minute like we were tonight and you still stay hungry for the day."

Skubal, featuring a lively fastball (average velocity 94.6 mph) and an effective change-up, gave up just four hits, two in the first and two in the fifth, in his six innings. His escape in the first was an early turning point.

Tigers starting pitcher Tarik Skubal throws in the second inning.

"Yeah, getting out of that first was key for us," Hinch said. "You can kind of sense a shift in momentum in a game like this. They jumped out on Tarik had some pretty good swings on him early, but we hold them scoreless, hit a home run in the bottom of the first and off we go."

After Eli White doubled and Adolis Garcia singled, the Rangers had runners on the corners with one out right out of the gate. Skubal got the ever-dangerous Joey Gallo to pop out to shortstop on a 3-1 pitch and then, with the help of catcher Eric Haase, caught Garcia napping off of first base.

"Eric saw that and signaled me to pick over," Skubal said. "I did what he told me to day. (Laughing) I leave all the thinking to him."

First baseman Jonathan Schoop took Skubal’s pick-off throw and briefly chased Garcia toward second. He stopped abruptly when White broke for home and made a strong throw to the plate to nab him.

Skubal dispatched the next 11 hitters before his next spot of trouble in the fifth.

The Tigers were having their own issues with Rangers starter Dane Dunning.

For four innings, the only vertical mark on the scoreboard was Robbie Grossman’s two-out, solo home run in the first inning. Grossman ambushed a first-pitch sinker from Dunning and lofted it 425 feet into the seats beyond the right-center field wall.

Tiger Robbie Grossman #8 celebrates his home run in the bottom of the first inning.

It was Grossman’s 14th home run of the season, and the second longest of his career. It also extended his on-base streak to 19 games. He’d hit a home run off Dunning in Arlington, too, the only run the Tigers got on him in five innings that night.

"Dunning has been good against us," Hinch said. "We put pressure on him at the end. I'll take any win, that's why we showed up today. But I am proud of our guys for how we did it. We hung in there against a really good pitcher who gave us trouble a couple of weeks ago."

The Rangers finally nicked Skubal in the top of the fifth. With one out and a runner on first, Skubal engaged in a six-pitch tussle with right-handed hitting Andy Ibanez.

He got back-to-back ugly swings with change-ups and then threw him two more that he bounced in front of the plate to even the count. Skubal threw a 95-mph fastball on 2-2 and Ibanez was way out front — which seems counterintuitive after seeing four straight pitches at 81 mph.

Skubal must’ve thought so, too, because he came back with another fastball, this one at 94 mph and Ibanez was right on it and lined it over Grossman’s head in right field for an RBI double.

"If I would have thrown another change-up like the first two, we wouldn't have had to get to the fastball," Skubal said. " I didn't do a good job of throwing a competitive pitch there. I wanted to throw the sinker in on his hands and maybe get a ground ball and I didn't execute the pitch."

It was his only mistake. Skubal struck out four, didn't walk anyone and got through six innings in 83 pitches. The Tigers bullpen — Kyle Funkhouser, Jose Cisnero and Gregory Soto — got the last nine outs in succession, six of them with strikeouts. 

Grounds crew ready the field following a weather delay ahead of the game.

Haase got the lead right back for the Tigers in the bottom of the fifth. He lined a 76-mph slider off the Tigers’ bullpen roof in left — 406 feet — for his 14th homer of the season.

Harold Castro singled and Derek Hill drew a walk and with two outs, Dunning, who is on innings-restrictions, was pulled for right-hander Josh Sborz.

Schoop greeted him with an RBI single, extending his hitting streak to 10 games.

Jeimer Candelario and Castro, who each had two hits, combined to plate another run in the sixth. Candelario doubled and Castro singled — both opposite-field shots. Castro has 15 hits in his last 30 at-bats.

The Tigers, 36-27 since May 8, have won five of Skubal’s last six starts.

After the game, the Tigers optioned right-hander Alex Lange to Triple-A Toledo. Matt Manning will be called up and start on Wednesday.