Detroit Tigers left-hander Tarik Skubal wasn’t pleased when he entered the dugout after Wednesday’s fourth inning.
He spiked his cap, glove and a paper cup before chucking two water bottles, a product of an exhausting 39-pitch inning in which his defense failed to him. By the end of his outing, the 25-year-old completed six innings and received a firm handshake from manager A.J. Hinch.
“I had some other motivation, too,” Skubal said.
He declined to elaborate.
“I’ll keep it to myself,” he said.
Skubal’s fury — and his secret motivation, likely the looming trade deadline — kept the Tigers in the game. The offense rallied for a 4-3 walk-off victory (and a victory in the three-game series) over the San Diego Padres at Comerica Park.
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Trailing 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth, the Tigers strung together three hits off Padres closer Taylor Rogers: a leadoff double by Jeimer Candelario, a two-out single by Jonathan Schoop and a two-out double by Victor Reyes, who launched the ball over the head of former Tiger Nomar Mazara in right field to score pinch-runner Akil Baddoo from third and Schoop from first.
“When the ball is off the bat, we all hold our breath,” Hinch said. “And then it hits the wall.”
It was the second straight ninth-inning rally for the Tigers, who tied it up Tuesday night off Rogers before allowing three runs in the top of the 10th inning in a 6-4 loss. Candelario finished Wednesday going 3-for-4 with two RBIs.
Right-handed reliever Michael Fulmer — the player most likely to be traded at the Aug. 2 deadline because he becomes a free agent after the season — pitched a scoreless ninth inning to pick up the win in what could be his final outing as a Tiger at Comerica Park.
“The last out, I stood and watched a little bit just in case,” Fulmer said. “You never know with everything going on. If that was the last appearance at home, then I’m very appreciative. If it’s not, then I’ll see everybody next week.”
All three runs allowed by the Tigers were unearned due to a pair of defensive miscues: first baseman Harold Castro’s dropped foul ball error in the fourth and catcher Eric Haase’s throwing error in the seventh.
“We made some miscues,” Hinch said. “We messed up the runs for (Skubal), but we’re still in the game. That doesn’t necessarily dictate the outcome of the game. We needed him competitively more than we needed any sort of message or endurance test.”
The Tigers (40-59) scored two runs off right-hander Yu Darvish, one each in the first and sixth innings. Darvish, a five-time All-Star including this season, worked out of a few jams, struck out 11 batters and notched 16 swings and misses over seven frames.
Darvish now has 49 double-digit strikeout performances in his career.
“He’s so good,” Hinch said. “He’s got all sorts of pitches. He never really sequences the same way twice. The finish four-seamer has been really effective for him this year. He’s not afraid to challenge you when he needs to. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy.”
Right-handed reliever Joe Jiménez, another trade candidate at the deadline, allowed the go-ahead run in the seventh, but the result wasn’t his fault. The two runs in the fourth weren’t Skubal’s fault, either.
In the seventh, Jiménez struck out his first batter, Ha-Seong Kim, on three pitches. The third pitch was a slider in the dirt, and after blocking the pitch, Haase needed to throw the ball to Castro at first base to complete the play.
The throw from Haase was high, pulling Castro off the base to catch the ball. By the time Castro landed, Kim had just touched first base. He came around to score on Jurickson Profar’s RBI single with two outs, putting the Padres ahead 3-2.
Skubal allowed two runs (zero earned runs) on three hits and three walks with two strikeouts in six innings, throwing 55 of 98 pitches for called strikes. He had four swings and misses: one two-seam fastball, two sliders and one changeup.
A big test occurred with one out in the fourth inning, when Castro’s drop extended six-time All-Star Manny Machado’s plate appearance. It should have been the second out. Castro was charged with an error on the seventh pitch, and on the 13th pitch, Skubal walked Machado to put two runners on.
“I’m more frustrated with the walk than I am the dropped ball,” Skubal said. “No one is trying to make errors. No one is trying to drop the ball. At that point, there’s nothing you can do or say to get him out, except for continuing to execute pitches. I didn’t do that, so that’s what I was more frustrated with.”
The runners advanced on an ensuing wild pitch, and Luke Voit tied the game, 1-1, with a sacrifice fly on the eight pitch of his plate appearance. Then, Skubal walked Austin Nola on four pitches and allowed an RBI single to Kim for a 2-1 deficit.
The third out came on a first-pitch fastball to Esteury Ruiz. He flied out to Reyes, who came from right field to make a diving, head-first catch in foul territory.
“That one was a grind,” Skubal said. “It’s a good test to have, kind of seeing what you’re made of. I’m glad I wasn’t taken out of the game in that situation. I was able to go back out and eat some more innings. That’s exactly where the focus went to after that.”
In the first three innings, Skubal needed just 32 pitches for nine outs. In the fourth, though, he was forced to throw 39 pitches for three outs (including 35 for the final two).
Skubal could have folded.
But he responded by retiring seven of the final eight batters he faced.
“Forty pitches is a real dilemma on whether to send him back out there,” Hinch said. “I sent him out there, and he had a nice, efficient inning. I think we learned another thing about Tarik, that he can fight through a little bit of adversity.”
Yu gotta know
The Tigers scored their first run in the first inning and forced Darvish to throw 21 pitches.
Javier Báez singled with one out and swiped third base with two outs. After Miguel Cabrera’s five-pitch walk, Candelario connected on Darvish’s two-strike fastball for an RBI single to left field and a 1-0 lead.
Haase struck out swinging to strand Cabrera and Candelario on the bases.
In the sixth, Candelario delivered again with an RBI single to left field. This time, he got a piece of Darvish’s cutter below the strike zone. It marked the Tigers’ third straight single and tied the game, 2-2.
The Tigers could have loaded the bases, as Eric Haase reached on a fielder’s choice, but later on in the play — which turned messy when Voit, the first baseman, committed a throwing error trying to get the runner advancing to second base — Cabrera was thrown out rounding third base for the second out.
Robbie Grossman struck out and stranded two runners.
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