Detroit — The Oakland Athletics don’t lose at Comerica Park. True, they haven’t been here since 2019, but they haven’t lost here since 2016.
They posted their 12th consecutive win in Detroit on Tuesday night, pounding rookie lefty Tarik Skubal and the Tigers 9-3. It was the Tigers fourth straight loss and their first losing month (12-14) since April.
They’ve lost five straight and 23 of their last 24 against Oakland.
“I just didn’t feel synced up after the first inning,” said Skubal, whose three walks in five innings matched his total over his previous four starts and 22.2 innings. “My legs felt really light underneath me for some reason. I don’t know really know why.
“I just didn’t feel synced up and I couldn’t command my fastball really well to the glove side or arm side. … Just an overall frustrating outing for me. I’m not proud of that.”
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The A’s put up a pair of three-run frames against Skubal, both anchored by a two-run home run — a 424-foot blast by Matt Chapman in the third, and an opposite-field missile by Mark Canha in the fifth.
Chapman added a second home run, 426 feet to center, off Derek Holland in the ninth. He has 23 on the year.
Chapman, the A’s third baseman, also made a five-star defensive play in the bottom of the fourth inning that broke the Tigers’ back. The Tigers, down 3-1 at the time, had the bases loaded and one out. Willi Castro hit a hard ground ball (107 mph exit velocity) that Chapman gobbled up on his way to the bag.
He stepped on third and fired a seed across the diamond to get the speedy Castro.
“That wasn’t a pretty good play, that was an elite play,” manager AJ Hinch said. “As good as you are going to see. He positioned his body to come across the bag and he has a cannon. He’s a Gold Glove defender.
“But it wasn’t just the double-play. It was the three-spot they put up in the top of the fifth. Tough turn of events.”
The homers weren’t the only balls the A’s hit hard off Skubal. They put 16 balls in play against him with an average exit velocity of 97 mph. They hit 10 balls with an exit velocity of 100 mph or better.
“He just didn’t execute to the quadrants that we wanted to pitch to,” catcher Dustin Garneau said. “And that team on the other side, they make you pay.”
And still, Skubal struck out six and got 13 swings-and-misses. There just wasn’t much in between the whiffs and the bombs. He has established a new franchise rookie strikeout mark of 150, breaking Spencer Turnbull’s mark of 146 set in 2019.
“That’s cool, but I don’t play the game for records,” Skubal said. “I play the game to win and tonight I didn’t do a good job putting my team in a position to win.”
The Tigers had the home-run balls flying, too. Former Athletic Robbie Grossman hit his 20th home run in the first inning. Garneau and Derek Hill both hit solo homers in the fifth as the Tigers chased A’s starter Cole Irvin.
It was Garneau’s first homer with the Tigers and Hill’s second in two days and they cut the A’s lead to 6-3.
Hinch went to his leverage relievers early to give his hitters a chance to make up the deficit.
“I want to try to keep the game close, of course,” Hinch said. “But the strategy was availability. We weren’t in a good place (in terms of bullpen availability).
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Kyle Funkhouser worked out of a first-and-third, one-out jam in the sixth inning — striking out Starling Marte with a slider outside the strike zone, and getting Mark Olson, who had doubled and singled earlier, to fly out to left.
Michael Fulmer worked a clean, 13-pitch seventh.
Hinch saved Jose Cisnero and Gregory Soto in case the Tigers pulled even or ahead, and gave lefty Holland the eighth.
Former Tiger Josh Harrison ripped a two-run single off Holland to open up a five-run lead. Harrison, who played 36 injury-plagued games with the Tigers in 2019, had three hits in his return to Comerica Park — a feat he never performed in his 36 games with the Tigers.
The Tigers couldn’t dent relievers Deolis Guerra, Yusmeiro Petit, Andrew Chafin and A.J. Puk.
Hinch afterward said that utility man Niko Goodrum (groin) and starting pitcher Wily Peralta (blister) will be activated off the injured list as rosters can expand to 28.