Left-hander Tarik Skubal hasn’t been able to put together back-to-back solid outings since his first two starts of the season. He’ll have a chance to do so on Wednesday afternoon when the host Detroit Tigers face the Chicago Cubs in the finale of a three-game series.
Skubal was sharp on Friday, allowing just one run and three hits while striking out seven over six innings in a 4-2 win at Cleveland. The key to his success was an effective changeup that he threw a season-high 30.7 percent of the time among his 88 pitches.
“You want to kill vertical movement so it doesn’t ride like a heater,” Skubal said of the pitch. “You don’t want it to be a batting-practice fastball. The velo separation is huge, too. If I’m throwing a 96-mph heater and the changeup at 85-86, and keeping the same arm speed, that’s what you want.”
What Skubal doesn’t want is a lack of consistency. In his start before Friday, he gave up five runs (four earned) in 5 1/3 innings at Boston.
He didn’t give up an earned run in his first start this month, a 5 1/3-inning stint against Tampa Bay.
In his last start of July, Skubal allowed four fifth-inning runs to Miami. That followed a home outing against San Francisco in which he tossed five scoreless innings.
If Skubal (3-2, 3.76 ERA) can command his changeup like he did against the Guardians, he could give the Cubs fits.
“They were swinging over it a lot. All positive results,” Skubal said. “You kind of stick with it until they prove they’re going to hit it or start taking it.”
Right-hander Jameson Taillon (7-8, 5.56), who starts for the Cubs on Wednesday, has lost his last two starts. He was pounded for a season-high eight earned runs in three innings at Toronto on Aug. 13. He gave up four runs in six innings against Kansas City on Friday but only two were earned.
“I thought he threw the ball pretty well,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “Overall, I thought it was a good outing.”
Taillon is hoping to show that he can produce like an ace down the stretch with Marcus Stroman sidelined indefinitely by a rib cage fracture. Chicago signed Taillon to a four-year, $68 million contract during the offseason.
“I really have no clue what his timeline is or where he’s going to be at, but it’s a good opportunity for me,” Taillon said of Stroman’s injury. “I have an opportunity in front of me to step up and prove why they went and got me.”
The Cubs and Tigers have split the first two games of the series. Detroit’s 8-6 victory on Tuesday was powered by a platoon player, Andy Ibanez, who hit two homers. The Tigers‘ Parker Meadows, playing in his second career game, supplied two hits and scored two runs.
The Tigers have won five of their last seven games.
“We had a lot of guys with big at-bats tonight, but Andy obviously had two of the biggest,” Detroit manager A.J. Hinch said. “It’s great to see a lot of guys contribute to a nice win.”
Chicago wasted a four-RBI night from Dansby Swanson, as well as Jeimer Candelario’s first homer since Aug. 5.
—Field Level Media
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