CHICAGO — For the first time since early June, Detroit Tigers southpaw Tarik Skubal completed six innings and looked like the best version of himself on the mound.
The rejuvenated offense backed up its starting pitcher with four runs in the top of the seventh – all with two outs – and totaled seven runs in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings.
The Tigers won their sixth straight game, beating the Chicago White Sox, 7-5, in the second of four games at Guaranteed Rate Field. Detroit improved to 36-47 overall and is 12-7 since June 18.
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“We play good baseball and expect to win every game,” Skubal said. “The focus is going to be on tomorrow’s game and doing everything we can to get another one. That’s been the goal all year, the results just haven’t been there. We’ve always ready to win every game.”
After two outs, the Tigers started their seventh inning by four runs with Jonathan Schoop’s single and Spencer Torkelson’s walk. Jeimer Candelario, hitting .191 in 65 games, put the Tigers ahead, 3-2, with a right-hand single.
His shot chased away White Sox right-hander Lucas Giolito.
“It’s always nice to contribute with the team,” Candelario said. “You want to contribute. You want to be in the line-up every day. You want to produce. This is the big leagues. We have become productive. We have to win football games. We have to perform. That’s what what we’re working on is really hard to do, and we still have a lot of games left.”
Right-handed reliever Joe Kelly came in and Willi Castro greeted him with a two-strike single to drive Torkelson for a 4-2 advantage. A full walk from Riley Greene charged the bases.
Javier Báez fed off boos from Chicago fans.
“His ability to thrive in those moments is quite unique,” manager AJ Hinch said. “Most people – the players, the coaches, me – don’t like this environment because it can get a bit intimidating, but Javy thrives in it. He demands it. He delivers when it happens. He loves the great times.”
Báez snatched a curveball from Kelly’s first pitch to left field for a two-run brace and a 6-2 lead. Upon arriving at second base, he threw his arms up in the air to taunt the crowd that had been taunting him since Friday’s game.
“I love it,” Skubal said. “I feel like every time he gets booed, he plays better. I don’t know if the fans want to keep booing him, but for me, every road trip we do, I hope every fan boos him. I feel like he plays better that way.”
The Tigers added their final run in the eighth inning, as Eric Haase lit the jets and scored from first on a two-out error by center fielder Luis Robert.
In the bottom of the eighth, the White Sox responded by scoring three runs with two outs. All three were charged by right-handed reliever Jason Foley. Southpaw Tyler Alexander got the final — knocking out right-handed hitter Andrew Vaughn on three pitches — but not before giving up two RBI singles.
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Right-hander Michael Fulmer put the tying run on base but escaped the jam for a scoreless ninth inning and second stoppage. He hit Robert with a slew of sliders; Jose Abreu flew out to end the match.
“Today of every day felt like I was trying to feel the slider,” Fulmer said. “In the bullpen, I was trying to feel a little more than normal. … (Runners) first and third, I found the fit, whatever it was. I had to do it.”
Going into Friday’s outing, Skubal had a 9.00 ERA — 23 runs in 23 innings — in his last five starts, from June 12 through last Sunday. During that streak, he has scored 14 walks and 20 strikeouts.
In his first 11 starts, the 25-year-old commanded a 2.33 ERA with 10 walks and 70 strikeouts in 65⅔ innings.
Facing the White Sox, one of the most dangerous offenses against left-handed pitchers, Skubal’s results resembled the production he showcased at the start of the season. He allowed two runs on six hits and one walk with seven strikeouts in six innings, throwing 61 of 91 pitches for strikes.
“I felt like I used everything pretty well,” Skubal said. “I was able to slow them down and speed them up and then make some changes in some fastball counts and command my slider. I thought my slider was pretty good today, and that’s the pitch which hasn’t been great for me lately.”
Bounce for Skubal
In the first inning, Robert smashed a two-run homer on the four-seam fastball from Skubal’s first pitch at 93.8 mph. The shot traveled down the middle and Robert didn’t miss the chance to take a 2-0 lead.
He hit the fastball with an exit speed of 111.4 mph. The ball traveled 449 feet to left field.
“I threw the pitch right in the middle,” Skubal said. “That’s what this guy is going to do.”
Three of the first four batters registered hits: Tim Anderson (single), Robert (home run) and Abreu (double).
After Abreu’s double, Skubal locked himself in.
“At some point, you stand up and fight for yourself,” Hinch said. “He didn’t make early pitches, and it got him, and then all of a sudden he found his slider, he found his change, he even turned the slow curveball that was non-existent the last two starts.”
He seemed unpredictable with his pitch mix. His change and two-seam fastball helped him dominate the Chicago roster, which was full of right-handed hitters. There were no lefties in the lineup.
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Avoiding further damage, Skubal bounced back pulling out Eloy Jimenez (swinging, two seams) and Adam Engel (looking, two seams) to complete his 21-pitch first inning.
In the third, Skubal faced Robert and Abreu for the second time. Robert flew out to right field and Abreu – in an eight-pitch battle – hit swinging on a 90.1 mph slider.
“I was able to command that pitch,” Skubal said of his brace. “I was able to run it to where it looked like a bullet and came back. It puts the slider in the same place down and in, where I can make the plate look a bit wider than she really is.”
Skubal worked around a walk in the fourth inning and two singles in the fifth. A challenge from Hinch rewarded the Tigers with their third out in the fifth, as Anderson went off base – only for a moment – while slipping to second on Robert’s single.
Initially, Anderson was deemed safe.
To wrap up his outing, Skubal fired a sixth round of three up, three down. He took out Jose Abreu (swinging, changeup) and Eloy Jimenez (looking, changeup) before Engel lined up for the third out.
“This pitch is kind of an equalizer,” Skubal said of his switch.
For Skubal’s 91 pitches, he threw 27 sliders (30%), 23 two-seam fastballs (25%), 18 changeovers (20%), 17 four-seam fastballs (19%) and six arcs. joint (7%). He recorded 15 swings and misses: five sliders, two two-seams, five changes, two four-seams, and one curve.
He also received 13 called strikes.
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Training by two runs, the Tigers tied the game, 2-2, in the sixth inning on Candelario’s two-run homer. He hammered a change from Giolito with an exit speed of 102.8 mph.
The ball carried 409 feet to right field.
“The circuit woke everyone up,” Hinch said.
Before Candelario took a deep dive, Giolito was in perfect control of his exit. He retired the team in the first inning and the Tigers had only one hit – Haase’s second inning single – before the sixth.
Torkelson set up the Candelario circuit by drawing a full-count ride.
“I’ve faced him a lot in my career, so you have to make an adjustment,” Candelario said. “I didn’t sit on the change. I just tried to see the fastball and hit it all the way. He threw the change there and I was ready to react.”
Giolito allowed five runs on five hits and two walks with eight strikeouts in 6⅔ innings, throwing 65 of 94 pitches for strikes.
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