Tale of 2 Skubals: 10 K's help him, 2 HRs hurt

August 25th, 2021

ST. LOUIS -- The K in Tarik stands for strikeout.

added to his rookie resumé with 10 strikeouts on Wednesday afternoon at Busch Stadium and showed why Detroit is so high on him.

Skubal displayed his electric repertoire from the start against St. Louis, striking out seven of the first nine Cardinals he faced in the Tigers' 3-2 loss in 10 innings.

The 24-year-old paired his mid-90s fastball with a slider and the occasional knuckle curve, the arsenal that made him the team’s No. 4 prospect and MLB Pipeline’s No. 24 overall prospect heading into this season.

“He was awesome,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “We've seen this out of him, so I'm not surprised in the least. He was very efficient, he pounded the strike zone.”

Skubal set the tone from the start, striking out the side in the first inning. It was his 19th straight start with four or more strikeouts, the most by a Tigers rookie pitcher and tying the Rays' Shane McClanahan for the longest such streak by a rookie hurler this season.

It was Skubal’s second start with 10 strikeouts or more, joining Toronto’s Alek Manoah and Cleveland’s Triston McKenzie as the only MLB rookies to have multiple 10-plus-strikeout games this season. He now has 144 strikeouts, two shy of matching Spencer Turnbull for most by a rookie in Tigers history.

“I'm just trying to build and continue to develop and continue to get better, and build off each outing, whether they're good or bad,” Skubal said. “I didn't really like my slider again that much today to the glove side. I felt like I did a good job backdooring, but not that much to the glove side. But that's something I can continue to work on and continue to get better at.”

The only downside to Skubal’s outing was that he had to face Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, whose two solo home runs were the only runs that he allowed. Goldschmidt blasted a 94-mph fastball a Statcast-projected 427 feet over the left-field wall in the first, then went opposite field on a 74-mph knuckle curve in the third.

Skubal said he felt that he threw Goldschmidt more hittable pitches in his third at-bat, a popout to first, than in the two prior at-bats, which both resulted in homers.

“He just kind of jumped me,” Skubal said. “That happens. It's unfortunate he runs the ball out of the yard, but I think the first pitch in the first at-bat is a quality pitch for me. And then even the curveball in the second at-bat that he takes the opposite field is also a quality pitch. I mean it could be more down, sure ... and he just stayed on and flipped it. He's a good hitter."

Skubal, who threw 62 of his 85 pitches for strikes, made quite an impression on the Cardinals slugger.

“His fastball is good, he uses it both sides of the plate, it’s 95-96 [mph] and [he] got a lot of outs with it today,” Goldschmidt said. “That slider is a hard slider, 87-89 [mph], [and he] does a good job, throws it for strikes and can be swing-and-miss on it too. ... He didn’t have a very high pitch count, so he must have been throwing a lot of strikes.”

Harold Castro’s pinch-hit single with two outs in the ninth scored Miguel Cabrera and gave Skubal the no-decision instead of a tough-luck loss.

But the Tigers couldn’t complete the comeback or a season sweep of the Cardinals. Castro didn’t tag up on a deep fly ball to right that led to a blown scoring chance for the Tigers in the top of the 10th, and Lars Nootbaar’s bases-loaded single off of Michael Fulmer broke the 2-2 tie in the bottom of the frame.

“It was a really good baseball game, and we got beat, and they did more than we did,” Hinch said. “It was exhausting trying to get through that. I wish it would have been a better result.”