KANSAS CITY, MO – Spencer Turkelson, the rookie upstart for the Detroit Tigers, looks to the bunker.
“Come darling!” He cried.
The 22-year-old had just crushed a second-tier goal from Kansas City Royals player Brad Keeler in two home runs to leave in the seventh. He celebrated at home with 38-year-old Miguel Cabrera, having scored a double of 599 and 2,995 career goals.
“That was pretty cool,” Turkelson said. “A really special moment. This half doesn’t happen without a double.”
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A combination of left-footed Tariq Scobal’s outing, the 599th Cabrera double and Torkelson’s big 432-foot fly secured a 2-1 victory Friday night in Game Two of four games at Kauffman Stadium.
“It’s a huge emotional blow,” said Tigers manager AJ Hinch. “We play a lot of close matches against these guys. A big swing like that puts a shock in the dugout, and I love it when the players show emotions, especially Tork. He’s been in a lot of stress for the past 10 days trying to get himself working. A great way to seal his arrival.”
The Tigers (4-4) were delayed until seventh, when Torkelson launched his second home run in the MLB.
“I want to see as many reptiles as possible outside of Turk,” Scobal said. “It was a big fly, a big bomb, and that obviously wins us the game there… He knows he belongs, and everyone at this club feels he belongs too. He can prove it and come back at any time.”
In the meantime, Skubal accomplished everything he was supposed to achieve in his second start to the season, a much-needed bounce back performance after being roughed up by the Chicago White Sox on his first outing.
He fired 16 first-court hits at the 22 hitters he encountered, clocked a 72.2% strike rate, shuffled his pitches brilliantly, produced seven hits and was knocked out in the sixth inning with no runs gained.
“Very aggressive,” Hinch said. “He came in and established himself in the strike zone, getting them into swing mode, and then he got the bad slider in, he threw some good changes, and the velo was there.”
The Tigers couldn’t reward Scobal with a solid outing victory because of Keeler, who nearly scored seven goal-free rounds and was untouchable for most of the evening. Keeler finished with seven frames of two-running ball in three strokes, two walks and five strokes.
Had it not been for Homer Turkelson, the tigers would have been killed. Scobal conceded one run in the fourth, although it was an unearned run due to shortstop error Harold Castro.
“We made the one mistake we felt was going to hurt us,” Hinch said. “Fortunately, we overcame that.”
Maintaining a 2-1 lead, the right squats Joe Jimenez and Michael Vollmer succeeded in the eighth and ninth games without goals. Vollmer scored his first save of the season, having earned 14 of them last year.
Skubal sailed through the first 11 players he encountered, sending them in order. He took a 0-2 lead over Salvador Perez by two margins in the fourth game, but the attack led to one win.
“I felt more aligned,” Scobal said. “It felt like one last walk, my legs were no match for my upper body. I was in so much pain the next day, which is not normal for me. My upper body was sore more than usual.
“It just means that something is not connected and my upper body is overcompensating. I felt more in tune. I felt really good today.”
Perez hit a 1-2 slider to get one of the boxers into the left field, as the ball deflected Castro’s gauntlet. In the next play, Andrew Benintende arrived safely after a field foul by Castro, and put two runners on.
Next, Carlos Santana made a single pass to the right field, putting the Royal Family 1-0 ahead.
Prior to the fourth round, Scobal scored six hits in the first three rounds.
The 25-year-old was working around a single from Nikki Lopez at number five and back for sixth. Bobby Witt Jr. retired, allowed Perez to a double hit and got Benintende to the ground.
Hinch removed Skubal from his start with Santana, a substitution hitter, due and Perez at third base. Santana hits better against the left than against the right, so Hinch replaced Skubal with right-handed Jacob Barnes.
Barnes finished the half with two points.
When the name is called, you want to do your job,” said Barnes, who threw 1⅓ point-free runs. “But when it’s a place for leverage, it’s so much better. It always makes you feel good when you’re done and doing your job.”
For Skubal’s 90 pitches (65 strokes), he used 35 sliders (39%), 20 four-seat fastballs (22%), 19 plungers (21%), nine curling balls (10%) and seven changes (8%). He made 12 swings and missed: six sliders, four sliders, three bends and two shifts.
He also had 15 strike calls, including nine sliders.
“It generated a lot of positive things,” Scobal said of the slider. “I feel like I stole a lot of first-pitch hits with her.”
His slider averaged 88.8 mph, 2.3 mph faster than last season’s average. Skubal rarely threw the slider on his debut, moving into the show for six of his 79th pitch against the White Sox. Skubal also raised the heat – by 4 mph – on his curve, which averaged 77.8 mph.
“I was able to throw it in the dirt when I needed to, to make a swing and a miss,” Skubal said of his curve. “And I was able to land in the hit zone when I needed to. So, it was good.”
His fastball averaged 95.1 mph, with a max of 97.3 mph.
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