Two of the most hyped young starting staffs in the major leagues will go head-to-head over the next four days when the Detroit Tigers visit the Oakland Athletics.
A pair of left-handers — the Tigers’ 24-year-old Tarik Skubal (0-1, 7.71 ERA) and the A’s 29-year-old Sean Manaea (0-1, 5.06)– are scheduled to duel in the opener of the four-game set on Thursday night.
Pitching has been the key as the Tigers and A’s have rebounded from rocky starts and enter the series playing their best ball of the season.
Detroit had lost six of nine before 23-year-old Casey Mize, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2018 draft, dazzled the Houston Astros over scoreless seven innings in a 6-2 win on Monday.
The Tigers went on to sweep the three-game series, including a 6-4 victory Wednesday night before catching a flight for Oakland.
Mize (1-0, 0.82) will pitch the third game of the series on Saturday, opposed by 27-year-old Cole Irvin (0-2, 7.45).
Skubal has started nine games in his budding major-league career, none west of Kansas City. He’s likely to see some old friends in Oakland, having grown up in the suburb of Hayward.
Skubal has started two games this season, both against Cleveland, and the Indians seemed to learn something about the newcomer.
Skubal limited the Indians to two runs on four hits over 5 1/3 innings in the Tigers’ third game of the season, a contest the Indians surged late in to win 9-3.
Cleveland then jumped on the former Seattle University standout for three homers among six runs in four innings in a rematch six days later, with the Indians winning 11-3.
“That’s not who I am,” Skubal said after the game. “The (mph) numbers were down; I looked at that and addressed it. It’s just aggression. Once I get back to being aggressive and attacking the glove, everything else figures itself out.”
Skubal has never pitched against the A’s.
Manaea, meanwhile, has thrown well in three career starts against the Tigers, going 2-1 with a 2.84 ERA. He has struck out 16 in 19 innings.
Like Skubal, Manaea has faced the same opponent — Houston — twice already this season, with mixed results. In his case, he had the poor outing the first time (five runs on six hits in 4 2/3 innings), followed by the impressive effort (one run on six hits in six innings).
After getting swept in four games at home by the Astros to open the season as part of an 0-6 start, the A’s took two of three in Houston last week to trigger a four-game winning streak.
Jed Lowrie, who went hitless in seven at-bats for the New York Mets in an aborted 2019 season before sitting out last year, currently leads the A’s with 14 hits in his third stint with the organization.
“I don’t know how to explain it,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “Maybe he’s fresh from two years (with little activity), but the bat looks the same as we’ve seen it, and he’s actually moving around the field pretty well. He’s been durable to this point and gotten huge hits. Can’t say enough about his contributions.”
–Field Level Media