Tarik Skubal struggles as White Sox throttle Tigers to win season-opening series
Detroit — Playing uphill is not generally advised against a team as good as the defending Central Division champion Chicago White Sox. It's not really a recipe for success as the Tigers found out this weekend.
The Chicagoans KO’d Tarik Skubal and beat the Tigers 10-1 on Sunday, taking two of three in the season-opening series at Comerica Park.
"There's no good way to describe a loss," manager AJ Hinch said. "We'll flush this one and get on to Boston. I'm not going to obsess over it, other than we obviously need to address a few things.
"It got ugly, but losing 2-1 would've been ugly, too."
The White Sox, who scored in their first at-bat and put the Tigers in a hole all three games, had their shortstop and leader back at the top of their order Sunday. Tim Anderson, suspended for the first two games for bumping umpire Tim Timmons the last time he played here last September, wasted no time setting the tone.
He ripped Skubal's first pitch for a double and triggered a two-run inning. He came into the game hitting .342 against the Tigers in his career, with 24 doubles, 12 home runs and 77 runs scored.
"He's as dangerous as any leadoff hitting in the game," Hinch said. "We play them 19 times a year, so he gets a lot of opportunity. There's something about him against the whole league, not just us. He's an All Star-caliber player against every team in the league."
He had two doubles and a single Sunday, and is now 7-for-13 against Skubal.
"He's a good hitter and from my standpoint, he's going to get himself out, but you have to make quality pitches," Skubal said. "The pitches he hit off me today weren't quality."
Skubal labored through four innings, giving up five runs (four earned) and seven hits.
"It looked like a funky pitch-usage," Hinch said. "A lot of change-ups, not many breaking balls. The ones he did throw got hit a little bit. He had to work inning-by-inning not being able to complete at-bats against a lineup that hits left-handed pitching."
Neither Hinch nor Skubal seemed concerned with the ineffectiveness of his best pitch, the fastball. The velocity was down on average (under 94 mph) and he threw several at 91 and 92 mph.
"I just didn't ever find a good rhythm today," Skubal said. "I wasn't putting the fastball where I wanted to. The change-up command wasn't really good, either. I just didn't have a feel for much today."
Being behind in so many counts, Skubal said, led to less use of the fastball. And afterward, he and Hinch both were questioning the heavy use of change-up over the slider.
"This is a lineup you can go soft on when you pitch ahead," Hinch said. "Obviously, mixing his pitches better, in hindsight, would have been better. But if he'd dominated them with the change-up we would've loved that.
"We will talk to him and reassess. We see these guys a lot. Tarik will make a good adjustment."
The White Sox broke the game open with a four-run seventh inning off Tigers' rookie right-hander Elvin Rodriguez, who came to Detroit from the Angels in the Justin Upton trade before the 2018 season. Making his big-league debut, he retired the first six batters he faced.
But in the seventh, he gave up a double to Anderson, an RBI single to Eloy Jimenez and a three-run homer to Andrew Vaughn.
"His line isn't going to do him justice," Hinch said. "He threw the ball well. He was calm. He had a good fastball. One bad pitch to Vaughn (a hanging slider) changes the entire line score."
There wasn't much to cheer about offensively for the Tigers. They mustered just two hits. The lone highlight was provided by Victor Reyes. Making his first start of the season, he worked a nine-pitch at-bat in the second inning and then launched a 400-foot triple to the wall in right-center field.
Miguel Cabrera, who had walked and was running on the two previous 3-2 pitches that Reyes fouled off, took off again and scored without a throw.
White Sox pitchers (starter Michael Kopech, Kyle Crick, Matt Foster and Kendall Graveman) between the second and seventh innings set down 16 straight hitters before Reyes drew a walk in the eighth.
"We played one of the top teams in our division," third baseman Jeimer Candelario said. "They won the series but we've got more games. We're going to get them."
As Hinch said, "It's one series in a long journey."