'I didn't execute': Long ball hurts Tarik Skubal again in Tigers' 4-3 loss to Orioles
Detroit — The crowd at Comerica Park was on its feet. With the Tigers down 4-1 in the bottom of the eighth inning, Miguel Cabrera strode to the plate with the bases loaded.
Against reliever Dillon Tate, he drove a fastball high into the night air toward the shrubs in center field.
"I thought for sure he got it," said Jonathan Schoop, who was on second base. "I raised my hands and everything. It's just tough here. You really got to hit it good."
Center fielder Cedric Mullins tracked it and caught it at the wall, 422 feet away from the plate, just a few feet away from a game-changing grand slam.
"I never think a ball to center field is going," manager AJ Hinch said after the Baltimore Orioles held on and beat the Tigers 4-3 Friday night, snapping a 10-game home winning streak. "The ball was carrying. He hit it well. I just wanted it to get over his head.
"Mullins is one of the better center fielders you will see. It was a great piece of hitting, a big moment, the crowd was into it — it was close to being an unbelievable moment."
On a night the Tigers celebrated Negro League baseball with the annual passing of the bat ceremony, and Pistons Cade Cunningham, the first-overall pick in the NBA draft, threw out the first pitch, the festive crowd of 18,861 was ready for some fun.
For the first six innings, though, Orioles veteran right-hander Matt Harvey was like a human hush machine. He came in having pitched 12 straight scoreless innings over his two previous starts, and he blanked the Tigers through the first six.
"He's pretty creative now," Hinch said. "He's really found something with the Orioles. They've done a good job getting him two separate breaking balls and he's super confident in his off-speed."
Cabrera (two hits) and Jeimer Candelario, though, singled to start the seventh inning. After Eric Haase lined out to center, Orioles manager Brandon Hyde brought in lefty Paul Fry (Waterford Kettering) to face left-handed hitting Harold Castro, who had two of the six hits off Harvey.
It was another big moment.
Hinch countered by pinch-hitting right-handed hitting Zack Short.
"We were down by four runs," Hinch said. "We weren't going to single our way back in, we needed a big swing there against Fry, who is really good against lefties. There was a lot in our favor there. Obviously, it didn't work out."
Short popped out to second and switch-hitter Willi Castro struck out.
"We were going for anything given we'd been extremely quiet for the better part of the game," he said.
Short would come up in a critical spot in the eighth, too.
Derek Hill led off with a triple and scored on a ball that bounced just a few feet away from catcher Pedro Severino. Akil Baddoo followed with an infield single, then reliever Tanner Scott hit Schoop and walked Robbie Grossman to load the bases for Cabrera.
After his sac fly made it 4-2, the Tigers had runners at first and third with two outs. Schoop ended up scoring on a wild pitch on ball four to Haase. Short came up with the tying run on third and hit a bullet straight to shortstop Ramon Urias.
"Shorty hit that ball hard," Schoop said. "He just hit it right to him. Just unlucky."
Right-hander Cole Sulser allowed for no drama in the ninth, dispatching the Tigers in order.
The Cabrera countdown counter was busy again Friday.
He doubled in the fourth, just missing career home run No. 498. He hit it to the cutout in right-center, to the base of the wall. Mullins nearly made a spectacular catch running into the out of town scoreboard.
With 56 games left in the season, Cabrera, with 2,941 hits, is 59 short of 3,000.
Rough one for Tigers rookie lefty Tarik Skubal though.
He allowed only three hits through the first 16 hitters he faced Friday night. Good news-bad news. The three hits were all solo home runs. Two of them were struck by Severino.
"This is a big league, literally," Hinch said. "Execution is key. He wasn't very sharp tonight...It's a reminder that you have to make pitches, even when you're not sharp. You have to find a way to execute. He had a hard time tonight."
It was the second straight start that Skubal was tagged for three home runs. The Royals got him three times in the first three innings. On Friday, Severino homered to leadoff the third and fifth innings. He hit a 93-mph two-seamer in the third and a 1-1 slider in the fifth.
Ryan Mountcastle hit a 3-2, 95-mph fastball into the right field seats in the fourth inning.
"I didn't execute pitches at a great clip tonight," Skubal said. "That's the frustrating part. Location. I was trying to go into righties and the ball leaked over the plate."
Skubal has allowed 25 home runs this season, second most in the Major Leagues. The Orioles hit eight balls off him with an exit velocity of 100 mph or more.
"I just think if I throw pitches where I'm supposed to throw them, they're not home runs," Skubal said. "If they are then you tip your cap. But the fastball that misses in the middle of the plate, it doesn't matter if they're aggressive or not, they're probably not going to miss them."
…The Tigers sent two injured players to Triple-A Toledo to begin rehab assignments. Isaac Paredes (hip) was in the Mud Hens lineup Friday. Niko Goodrum (calf) will be there on Saturday. Daz Cameron (toe) is expected to join them early next week.
…The Tigers purchased the contract of left-hander Ian Krol from Toledo to take the roster spot of Daniel Norris, who was traded to Milwaukee. The Tigers still have two open spots on their 40-man roster.