The Detroit Tigers have used a dozen starting pitchers this season, courtesy of injuries and doubleheaders. Their lone rock has been left-hander Tarik Skubal, who will start the finale of the three-game home series against the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday.
Skubal (5-2, 2.33 ERA) has given up just eight runs in 45 innings while striking out 50 over seven starts since the beginning of May. He has gone seven innings in each of his past three starts, most recently on Tuesday in Pittsburgh. The Pirates scored three runs but Skubal didn’t issue a walk while recording nine strikeouts in the 5-3 win.
The next step, in Skubal’s mind, is to go the distance.
“My goal is to go nine innings every single game,” he said. “You go seven and you want to push the threshold to eight and then nine. I’m trying to give my team everything I can to put us in position to win a ballgame.”
When Skubal takes the ball every fifth day, the Tigers’ confidence automatically ratchets up.
“We’ve had a rough start to this season, but every time Tarik pitches there is a different feel in the clubhouse,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “This is the signature of a guy that’s turned into a real pitcher.”
He’ll be facing the Blue Jays for the first time in his career.
Right-hander Ross Stripling (2-1, 3.65) will be Skubal’s mound opponent. He’ll be making his 15th appearance and seventh start of the season.
His last outing matched his longest of the season. He held Kansas City to one hit over five innings in an 8-0 victory on Monday.
The 32-year-old has settled into being a long reliever who can slot into the rotation as needed.
“That’s my role, and I know there’s a lot of value in that,” he said. “Once you accept that and understand that there is value there, you show up to the field with a smile on your face.”
Stripling tossed two scoreless innings in relief during his lone career appearance against the Tigers, which came in 2017.
The Blue Jays unveiled their top prospect on Saturday. Catcher Gabriel Moreno was called up from Triple-A Buffalo in time to start the game and went 1-for-4, with the hit coming against flamethrower Gregory Soto. Moreno scored the team’s lone run in a 3-1 loss.
Moreno, 22, was batting .324 at Triple-A Buffalo.
“He’s got the tools. He’s a good player,” manager Charlie Montoyo said. “It’s always great to see that first hit, and then it’s more impressive when somebody throws a 100 (mph pitch) and he hits a line drive up the middle. That was pretty cool to see.”
Montoyo hinted Moreno would play in the series finale. The Blue Jays are wrapping up a six-game road trip, while the Tigers are at the front end of a 10-game homestand. Detroit got a boost from outfielder Victor Reyes, who had three hits after being activated from the injured list.
Toronto had won 12 of its last 15 games prior to the loss. The Blue Jays left 10 men on base.
“It was a tough-luck game,” Montoyo said. “We hit the ball hard. I don’t know what the numbers are, but we hit the ball hard. That’s how I see this game.”
–Field Level Media