Tigers' bats go quiet in nightcap, split doubleheader with A's
Tarik Skubal helped the Tigers start their doubleheader against the Oakland Athletics on Thursday with a 7-2 win, but Detroit exhausted all the runs it had in the tank in the early game, as the offense went virtually silent in a 5-0 loss in the nightcap.
Whatever Skubal did during the All-Star break, he might want to try doing it again before his next start.
Skubal was back to his early-season form, allowing just one run and striking out nine over six innings in the opener.
"I thought he (Skubal) was good," manager AJ Hinch said to a pool of reporters postgame. "Obviously, he's a really good pitcher and he missed a lot of bats and attacked these guys. I said before the game, I thought if we threw strikes (then) we had a chance to get into good counts, (and) he did that.
"Especially coming back off the break, I thought he threw the ball great."
Skubal was perfect through 3⅔ innings, but walked Sean Murphy with two outs in the fourth. His no-hit bid was then snapped in the fifth when a pop fly off the bat of Seth Brown dropped in shallow left field.
Jeimer Candelario tried his best to track the ball from third base, and he looked as if he was camped under it at one point, but he battled the sun the whole way and ultimately lost it. It wasn't ruled an error, though, and he never got his glove on it.
Brown later advanced to third on a passed ball and scored on a sacrifice fly, the only run Oakland could muster with Skubal on the mound.
After starting the season 4-2 with a 2.15 ERA over his first 10 starts, Skubal fell on some hard times in his last eight appearances coming into Thursday.
The lefty's ERA was 6.86 during that stretch and he only won two games, but perhaps his performance against the A's could serve as a turning point.
Candelario made things right with his bat, launching a 398-foot home run to right-center field in the seventh inning, giving the Tigers some insurance.
The ball left his bat at 104.4 mph.
Riley Greene also drove in a run, and Jonathan Schoop knocked in two himself.
Robbie Grossman stole the show offensively for the Tigers. He broke out of an 0-for-15 slump in his at-bats against the A's this season.
Grossman drove in three runs on a pair of doubles in the third and fifth innings. He also had a sliding grab out in left field in the fifth.
"Defensively, (Grossman) had one of the plays of the game," Hinch said. "And then obviously offensively, right-handed, he continues to swing the bat very, very well. We need to get him started. He had a rough first half, but that doesn't mean it has to define his year."
Alex Lange ran into some trouble in the seventh, as he came in from the bullpen and gave up a homer to Brown to start the inning. A few batters later, Lange was in a jam with runners on the corners and only one out.
Lange proceeded to strike out Nick Allen looking with an 86.8 mph curveball and punched out Skye Bolt swinging with a similar pitch.
Michael Fulmer and Jason Foley combined to finish the game and the Tigers broke their four-game losing skid.
After a roughly 45-minute break, rookie righty Garrett Hill stepped to the mound for the third start of his career, and he picked up exactly where Skubal left off.
Hill allowed just two hits through the first five innings in the 5-0 loss, keeping Oakland off the board and controlling the game for much of the outing.
He walked back-to-back hitters in the second inning, but quickly settled down and recorded two outs before any damage could be done. And aside from that hiccup, Hill didn't find himself in much danger.
Until the sixth inning.
After back-to-back singles by Vimael Machín and Ramón Laureano, Murphy blasted a 447-foot homer to center field. It was a 76.5 mph knuckle curve left over the plate that cost Hill.
Dating back to his last start, Hill had pitched eight straight scoreless innings before Murphy's three-run shot.
"We liked where (Hill) was going into the sixth," Hinch said. "I had Chafin up (in the bullpen) to get Brown, but (Hill) never got to him. He hung the breaking ball (to Murphy). They took some big swings.
"The long at-bat with Machín was probably the at-bat of the game against Hill. He was pretty dominant to that point. Long at-bat, he gets on base, Laureano hits the bullet, Candy almost makes the play, then he hangs the breaking ball, and that's kind of the name of the game."
Andrew Chafin came in immediately after the home run and gave up two runs, one earned, and the A's blew the game wide open with a five-run inning. Oakland logged more hits in the sixth inning alone than it did in the entire first game.
Chafin hadn't allowed a run in his previous 10 appearances before Thursday.
The Tigers had some chances in the second game, stranding 14 on base, including four in scoring position, but couldn't make good on any of the opportunities. Oakland's Frankie Montas started the game and went three innings, and the Tigers saw six relievers after him.
"We knew coming off the injured list, (Montas) was only going to go once or twice through (the lineup) at the most," Hinch said. "Maybe four innings, maybe five. They pulled him out after three, we knew that. It is different facing different guys, but we had better at-bats in the first game and the production showed."
On a bright note, José Cisnero made his first appearance of the season in the eighth inning. He had previously been dealing with a shoulder injury and rehab for five months and finally made it back to the team last week and was set to be activated.
He was then placed on the bereavement list due to a family emergency and stayed there until Thursday, when he was activated before the doubleheader started.
Cisnero allowed two hits but pitched a scoreless eighth.
"I wanted him to pitch today, that's why he came out here," Hinch said. "Obviously, thoughts and prayers to his family, he missed a series at the end (of the first half of the season) with his family emergency. ... It feels like forever since he's pitched for us.
"He's going to play a pivotal role in the second half."