McCoy: Reds stymied by Skubal, swept by Tigers

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

All the optimism and euphoria of the Cincinnati Reds’ three-game sweep of the New York Yankees in Yankee Stadium took a belly-whopper to the bottom of the Ohio River over the weekend.

With a chance to turn their season around, the Reds were swept by the Detroit Tigers in Great American Ball Park.

The three-game Detroit sweep was completed Sunday afternoon, 5-1. It was Detroit’s first sweep since the first series of the season when they won three straight over the woeful Chicago White Sox.

And the hit-starved Reds knew the assignment Sunday was ultra-difficult because they were facing Tarik Skubal, one of baseball’s best pitchers.

Forced to face this high-quality pitcher, Reds manager David Bell’s lower portion of his batting order contained players hitting .167, .186, .187 and .063.

The left-handed Skubal took full advantage, striking out a career best 13 while muzzling the Reds on one run and three hits over seven innings.

The Tigers had runners on base in all of the first eight innings, but the Reds were right there, down just 2-1 after seven.

Then came the fatal eighth, just as it was Saturday when the Reds owned a 2-0 lead only to watch the Tigers score five runs in the eighth en route to a 5-3 win.

Because closer Alexis Diaz hasn’t had much work, Bell decided to send him to the mound for the eighth. And he struck out the first two.

Gio Urshela bounced a routine third-out ball to third baseman Noelvi Marte. First he bobbled it, then threw it wide of first base. Marte has the putter’s yips and can’t seem to throw anything close to a strike to first base.

Given life, Detroit’s Zach McKinstry, hitting .176, hit a 2-and-2 87 mph slider 387 feet over the right-field wall and the 2-1 lead expanded to 4-1.

Then the eighth and ninth batters in the Detroit lineup produced another run. Back-up catcher Jake Rogers, hitting .208, singled and then stole his first base of the season. That enabled him to score when Parker Meadows, hitting .123, singled to make it 5-1.

It was Graham Ashcraft Bobblehead Day and as it turned out it was his turn to pitch.

It was not memorable, even though he gave up only one run and six hits over 4 2/3 innings. He kept escaping from impending disaster.

The Tigers had two on in the first and didn’t score. They had their leadoff man on base in the second and didn’t score. They had two on and one out in the third and didn’t score.

They broke through in the fourth with three straight singles to open the inning, the run scoring on McKinstry’s single for a 1-0 lead.

They had a runner on second with one out in the fifth and didn’t score. They had a runner on with one out in the sixth and didn’t score.

They scored their second run in the seventh against Nick Martinez. He walked the first batter and he took third on Matt Vierling’s double and scored on Colt Keith’s first-pitch single to make it 2-0.

The Tigers stranded seven and were 3 for 11 with runners in scoring position.

Meanwhile, Skubal, now 10-3 with a 2.37 earned run average, was in mow-’em-down mode. He is a surprise story in that he was drafted in the ninth round in 2018, the 255th player picked. And he missed most of 2020 with an injury and underwent Tommy John surgery in 2017 when he pitched at Seattle University.

It took him only seven pitches to go 1-2-3 in the first and the 25,451 seated in GABP sensed what was happening. They were as quiet as if observing an Italian opera the entire game.

Skubal struck out two of the three outs he recorded in the second on just eight more pitches.

Catcher Austin Wynns doubled leading off the third, but stayed put as Skubal retired the next three, striking out Will Benson and Jonathan India in the process.

India was 0 for 4 with two strikeouts, ending his 17-game on-base streak.

Skubal went 1-2-3 in the fourth and fifth with four more strikeouts. Benson opened the sixth with a single and Skubal struck out Blake Dunn, India and Elly De La Cruz.

The Reds finally scored in the seventh, aided by shortstop McKinstry’s error. Jeimer Candelario doubled down the right-field line and Mckinstry booted Spencer Steer’s easy ground ball. Skubal threw a wild pitch, moving the runners to third and second, and Candelario scored on Marte’s grounder to short.

That was the end for Skubal. Despite 13 strikeouts, he threw only 93 pitches. Will Vest pitched a 1-2-3 eighth and Alex Faeda retired the first two in the ninth, gave up a double to Steer, the Reds’ third hit, then ended it on Marte’s grounder to third.

The Reds try to regroup this week with a four-game series in GABP beginnng Monday against the 32-58 Colorado Rockies, firmly entrenched in last place in the National League West.

The Reds swept three games from the Rockies at Coors Field in early June, outscoring them, 29-11.

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