Tarik Skubal was the last man standing from the Detroit Tigers’ season-opening rotation. Then in his latest start, he could barely walk off the field.
The left-hander hobbled off in Cleveland on Friday after being struck on the shin by an Ernie Clement line drive. X-rays were negative, and Skubal will take the mound in the opener of a four-game home series against the Guardians on Thursday.
Skubal tossed five scoreless innings before sustaining what was later diagnosed as a left leg contusion. He got through a bullpen session with no issues between starts.
All of Detroit’s other projected starting pitchers are on the injured list. Skubal (3-2, 2.22 ERA) has been rock solid, not allowing a run in any of his past three starts. He will carry a 19-inning scoreless streak into the Thursday game.
“His execution of the game plan has been phenomenal,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “He’s a horse. He can handle the burden of being one of the last guys standing from the original rotation, health-wise, but he also gives us a chance every game.”
Skubal hasn’t allowed an earned run in five of his eight starts this season. He is 0-2 with a 4.57 ERA in five career starts against Cleveland, with both losses coming in 2021.
“The stuff that he has, it’s unbelievable,” reliever Michael Fulmer said, according to the Detroit Free Press. “It’s some of the best stuff I’ve ever got to personally experience. I think he’s going to have a long, successful career. Hopefully, he wins a couple Cy Youngs in his career.”
Cleveland was originally scheduled to pitch Aaron Civale, who enjoyed his best outing of the season against the Tigers on Friday. Civale only allowed one unearned run and three hits in 6 1/3 innings before his outing was cut off by a gluteal cramp. That issue was bothersome enough that the Guardians decided to put Civale on the injured list.
Left-hander Konnor Pilkington will be called up from Triple-A Columbus and start in his place.
Cleveland manager Terry Francona said it was a tough call to shelve Civale.
“We don’t want somebody pitching when they’re thinking about something else and decelerating differently and hurting something else,” Francona said. “I think we agonized over it more than any move we’ve ever made, just because it was so gray. Even to him.”
Francona is hopeful Civale will only miss two starts.
“We bite the bullet a little bit and tried to explain to him then that he can kind of take a deep breath, because he’d been grinding on it,” Francona said. “He can throw some sides and the next time he pitches he won’t have to be worried about this.”
Pilkington (0-0, 2.08 ERA), who has never faced the Tigers, has made four appearances for Cleveland this season, including a start against Toronto on May 8. He gave up two runs on three hits in 3 2/3 innings vs. the Blue Jays. Pilkington has no decisions and a 2.08 ERA in four starts for Columbus this year.
Cleveland heads to Detroit after losing 2-1 at Houston on Wednesday, as the Astros took two of three in the series.
The Tigers avoided getting swept in a three-game road series in Minnesota with a 4-2, 10-inning win on Wednesday. Jeimer Candelario’s two-run homer proved to be the game-winning blow. Harold Castro accounted for the other Detroit runs with solo home runs.
“We needed to find a way to push runs across,” Hinch said. “We haven’t played that team very well, and we’re going to play them a lot next week. You’ve got to stand up and fight for yourself a little bit.”
–Field Level Media