Victor Reyes triples twice to key Tigers' series-winning romp over Red Sox
Detroit — They came to watch Miguel Cabrera chase milestones. They stayed to watch the Tigers take a home series from the Boston Red Sox.
Behind some gritty pitching by rookie left-hander Tarik Skubal and an outbreak of extra-base muscle, the Tigers beat the Red Sox, 8-1, in the rubber match of the three-game set Thursday afternoon before a crowd of 19,144 at Comerica Park.
"I know it sounds like coach-speak, but I love that we won the day, we won a series and we won a homestand," manager AJ Hinch said. "We just keep being very present in what the challenge is in front of us."
Talk of this being any kind of statement series for the Tigers was quickly rebuked by Hinch. Yes, they beat a good Red Sox team, albeit at a time when they are scuffling. But it counts the same as either of the wins they had against the Orioles over the weekend.
"We're still pushing for the postseason, too," Hinch said, his team nine games out of a wild card spot. "We're still fighting to win every game. So we don't put any more pressure on ourselves whether we're playing a winning team or a team under .500.
"A win is a win. We don't celebrate differently."
Hopefully the celebration Thursday included presenting right fielder Victor Reyes with the WWE style championship belt for offensive player of the game. He came in hitting .183 and had started just once in the last seven days and knocked in three runs with a pair of triples.
"The key is to be ready," he said through Tigers' bilingual interpreter Carlos Guillen. "Work out on a daily basis and be ready."
He tripled and scored batting right-handed in the second inning, then tripled and drove in two runs from the left side in the fifth.
"I've been working hard for that," he said. "What is important for me is to make contact and hit the ball hard. I knew one of these days the ball was going to fall."
He’s the first Tiger to have multiple triples in a game since Ian Kinsler did it on July 17, 2017. He’s also the first player in the majors to hit a triple from each side of the plate in the same game since Dmitri Young did it with the Tigers on May 6, 2003 — a team that Hinch played on.
"It's a coin flip if I was in Toledo or in Detroit at the time," Hinch joked.
He was in Toledo.
"This was a good team win across the board," Hinch said. "We held our own against a really good team and won a homestand. So it is satisfying because we played good baseball against a good baseball team."
Robbie Grossman set the tone, bashing Boston starter Martin Perez's third pitch of the game, a 95-mph fastball, 417 feet over the Tigers bullpen in left field. It was his 17th home run of the season.
Grossman, though, left the game after he was hit by a pitch in the left elbow in the second inning. The team’s initial report called it a contusion and Hinch said postgame X-rays were negative.
"He got hit right above the elbow. It didn't get the point of the elbow, which is what he thought at the time," Hinch said. "He's going to be really sore so we have to check with him tomorrow. I was going to give him an off-day Saturday any way, so we'll see."
Before the Tigers blew the game open, though, Skubal was in full battle mode.
His fastball velocity dropped 3 mph in his last start (down to 93.7 mph on average), but he came out firing 97-mph bullets Thursday. He struck out both Kike Hernandez and J.D. Martinez with 97s in the first inning.
Skubal said he and pitching coach Chris Fetter adjusted where he stood on the mound before going into his delivery.
"I throw from the first-base side and he moved me over to the middle," Skubal said. "That allowed me not to crossfire so much (throw across his body) and fight myself so much. That adjustment was huge."
It not only freed up his release, it allowed him to work his pitches inside to right-handed hitters.
"When I missed, I missed in and off the plate instead of over the plate," he said.
His other four innings were exercises in crisis management.
Things seriously threatened to go off the rails in the third. After an infield hit and Skubal’s only walk of the game, he threw a pickoff attempt to second base into center field — runners at second and third and one out.
Undaunted, he struck out Martinez, looking at a 3-2 heater, and then center fielder Derek Hill ran down a drive in the right-center gap by Xander Bogaerts.
"He doesn't waver," Hinch said. "Mentally he's very strong. … His mentality has been strong the entire season. You do want the ball in his hand in big spots. He's going to deliver for you."
After stranding a runner at second in the fifth — again getting Rafael Devers and Martinez to do so — Skubal was at 90 pitches and finished for the day.
After giving up six home runs in his previous two starts, this was nice bounce-back performance. Just don't call it a statement game.
"I didn't put any more pressure, no more emphasis on this one over the others," Skubal said. "I'm just glad we won the series against a really good team. I did my part to help us win today and that's what I try to do every time I take the ball."
As for Cabrera, the countdown counter got a day off. He walked in five trips to the plate. He will take 498 home runs and 2,945 hits into Cleveland tomorrow night.