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Momentum Fades for Tigers As They Lose First Two Games in Oakland

After feeling good coming off a 3-game sweep of the Houston Astros, the Detroit Tigers dropped the first two games in Oakland. It is a reminder that the Tigers are still young and developing as the long baseball season is only 8.6% of the way over.

Tarik Skubal started for Detroit on Thursday night. While his velocity looked good, his location was off. For those who watched the Bally Sports Detroit broadcast, Jack Morris provided a breakdown of why Tarik Skubal has a hard time locating the ball down. His body has a lot of tilt as he prepares to stride toward home plate. His high arm slot provides riding action on his fastball, which is good. The problem is his eyes veer away from the target as he tilts, and combine that with his high arm slot, the fastball ends up in a consistently higher location in the strike zone.

Tarik Skubal started for the Detroit Tigers on April 15, 2021 in Oakland.

Knowing that, Oakland hitters were being patient and letting Skubal throw a lot of pitches. Even though Skubal ended with five strikeouts on the night, he ended up in a lot of full-count situations. In the bottom of the 3rd inning, Skubal faced three batters with full-counts. The good news is he struck out all three of those batters. That shows he is able to work through stress, but he also needs to learn to keep the pitch count down. This may be hard to do until he can learn to throw the fastball lower in the zone.

In the third inning he threw 37 pitches. In the fourth inning he threw 26 pitches. Those two innings alone combined for a total of 63 pitches. For those who think that starters don’t need to go deep in the game, the Tigers have only won one game where the starter pitched four innings or less. On April 6, Casey Mize only pitched four innings and the Tigers won in extra innings that day. The difference that day is Michael Fulmer provided two innings of relief to help bridge the gap. With Fulmer in the starting rotation now, the Tigers are looking for a pitcher to help provide long relief. They are hoping Derek Holland and Tyler Alexander can fill that role.

Tarik Skubal’s final stat line: 4 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 5 K and 88 pitches thrown. 46 of the 88 pitches were for strikes. The Tigers bullpen: 4 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 8 BB, 5 K and 104 pitches thrown. 56 of the 104 pitches were for strikes.

Joe Jimenez, who has not pitched for the Tigers this year, made his season debut out of the bullpen. He could not find the strike zone as he faced four batters, walking three of them. Rookie Alex Lange relieved Jimenez, but walked two of the three batters he faced. In total, there were six walks allowed in the bottom of the 6th inning.

Prior to last night, when the Tigers have won games this season, the average length for the starting pitcher is 5 2/3 innings. When the Tigers lose games, the average is 4 1/3.

On the offensive side for the Tigers, they ended up out-hitting the Athletics, nine to eight. The difference is that Oakland pitchers only allowed one walk on the night. Akil Baddoo had his worse game as a Tiger as he went 0-for-4 with 3 strikeouts.

On a positive note, Niko Goodrum hit his first home run of the year to lead off the 6th inning against Oakland starter Sean Manaea. Manaea pitched six innings without giving up a walk and striking out seven batters.

It was good to see Jeimer Candelario hustle home in the top of the 4th inning when Willi Castro hit an excuse me fly ball down the right-field line. There were two outs in the inning when it looked like Castro’s ball might go foul. Rather than watch the ball, Candelario put his head down and hustled around the bases to score a run when the ball hit the chalk for a fair ball. Detroit tied the game, 1-1 at that point. They ended up losing, 8-4 on Thursday night.

Last night, the Tigers lost again to Oakland.

The good news is that Jose Urena pitched well as he finished with a quality start. This was Urena’s first quality start since June 1, 2019 when he was pitching for the Miami Marlins. A quality start is an outing in which a starting pitcher throws at least six innings and allows three earned runs or fewer.

Unlike Skubal the night before, Urena was able to keep his pitch count low as he was able to get through seven innings throwing 96 pitches. Home plate umpire Angel Hernandez had a little extra room on the outside corner to help Urena with a few close pitches, but that is Hernandez’s usual strike zone.

Urena ran into trouble in the bottom of the 4th inning when he walked Ramon Laureano with one out after an eight pitch at-bat. Laureano would eventually come around the bases to score the first run of the game after a Mitch Moreland RBI single. Oakland tacked on one more run when Sean Murphy hit a RBI double to score Matt Chapman. Chapman would also hit a home run later in the game.

Urena walked two batters in that 4th inning, but settled down to keep the Tigers close.

For Oakland, Frankie Montas had his fastball working to keep Detroit off the board. He walked only one batter through six innings. Detroit could not get any momentum going as they never had a runner in scoring position the whole night. All four hits by the Tigers were singles. Akil Baddoo finished 0-for-3 with 3 strikeouts for the second straight night.

Oakland shutout Detroit, 3-0.

The good news is that Urena was able to give the bullpen a rest as Casey Mize is set to take the mound on Saturday night. Cole Irvin is listed as the starting pitcher for Oakland. Irvin will be looking for his first win of the season, and Mize is going for his second win.

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