Tarik Skubal stays the course, Tigers sweep White Sox for fourth straight win

Tribune Content Agency

CHICAGO — There is an attack dog inside of Tarik Skubal and the White Sox tried to exploit that Sunday.

Didn’t quite.

Behind seven strong innings from Skubal, the Tigers completed the sweep with a 3-2 win over the Southsiders at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Spencer Torkelson, serving as the designated hitter, broke a 2-2 tie in the top of the seventh inning with his 25th home run of the year, a 436-foot no-doubter that landed just short of the concourse beyond the seats in left field.

Relievers Jason Foley and Alex Lange got the final six outs. The White Sox put two runners on against Lange in the ninth but he got Oscar Colas to bang into a 4-6-3 double play to earn his 21st save.

Skubal, though, conducted a seminar on staying committed to and executing a plan. Because he wobbled early.

Tim Anderson, as he often does, ambushed Skubal’s first pitch of the game for a double. But Skubal kept attacking. His first 10 pitches were strikes. The 10th one, though, got swatted into right field by Eloy Jimenez for a two-out RBI single and the inning briefly got away from Skubal.

He walked Yoan Moncada after getting ahead 0-2. That led to an RBI single by Elvis Andrus and a laborious 21-pitch first inning.

But it did not deter Skubal in any discernible way. In fact, he allowed just two other hits after the first and produced his most efficient win of the season, rolling through seven innings in 97 pitches.

It should be pointed out, too, that being an attack dog doesn’t mean you have to bite with your fastball. Here was Skubal’s pitch mix against a Chicago lineup that featured seven right-handed hitters: 29 changeups, 26 sliders, 22 four-seam fastballs, 10 two-seamers, 10 knuckle curves.

He got swing and misses with all of them, 20 in total.

This at-bat with Jimenez in the third inning illustrated Skubal’s doggedness: Jimenez smoked a 1-0 changeup just foul down the left-field line. Undaunted, Skubal came back with the changeup on the next pitch. Foul ball, 1-2 count.

After the count went full, Skubal fearlessly went back to the changeup again and got him to pop out to second base.

He bit with the heater, too.

Jimenez ambushed a first-pitch slider and led off the sixth with a double. The game was still tied at 2. Again, Skubal shrugged it. He struck out Moncada with a 96-mph fastball, got Andrus to pop to first and blew away Trayce Thompson with a 97-mph heater.

Impressive performance.

On the other side of the starting pitcher coin was the curious case of White Sox right-hander Michael Kopech.

He dominated the Tigers back on June 4, striking out nine and allowing two runs in seven innings.

He was very different on Sunday. In truth, he’s been a different pitcher since the middle of June.

In his previous 12 starts before Sunday, he’d walked 51 hitters in 50⅓ innings. He led the American League with 84 walks and padded his lead Sunday. He only lasted 1⅔ innings against the Tigers and it was hard to watch.

He walked five of the 10 batters he faced. Twenty-eight of his 44 pitches were out of the strike zone.

The Tigers, though, very nearly let him off the hook.

After he walked the first two batters of the game, he escaped damage, striking out Torkelson, getting a caught-stealing at second base (Zach McKinstry) and then getting Kerry Carpenter to fly out to center.

He walked the first two in the second inning, too, and then dispatched Tyler Nevin and Zack Short before catcher Carson Kelly rescued the inning with a clutch, two-run double into the left-field corner. Speedy Parker Meadows scampered all the way around from first base.

The Tigers had runners on base in every inning through the sixth and still the game remained tied until Torkelson’s missile. The drew nine walks and had a hit-batsman and only two of those runners scored.

But all’s well that ends well. The Tigers have won four straight and own a 28-15 record in the Central Division.