PITTSBURGH – Tarik Skubal pitched seven steady innings to win his fourth straight decision and Harold Castro hit a two-run single to lead the Detroit Tigers to a rain-delayed 5-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday night.
After the start was pushed back more than two hours, Skubal (5-2) gave up three runs and six hits while striking out nine and walking one. The left-hander has worked a career-high seven innings in three consecutive outings and is 4-0 with a 1.60 ERA in his last seven starts.
The 25-year-old Skubal has emerged as the Tigers’ ace after compiling a 9-16 record with a 4.57 ERA in 39 games — 36 starts — over his first two major league seasons.
“Tarik Skubal is obvious a big piece of trying to push this thing forward,” Detroit manager A.J. Hinch said. “It speaks to our minor league people and our (player development) people.
“He’s learned some hard lessons over the last year and a half or so, but for a team that had a rough start to the season, the day he pitches every single time there is a different feel in the clubhouse and that is a signature of a guy who is turning into a very good major league pitcher.”
Castro’s hit, a liner up the middle, capped a three-run fourth that put the Tigers in front 4-1. Touted rookie Spencer Torkelson drove in the first run with a double.
Leadoff hitter Willi Castro, slumping Javier Baez and Tucker Barnhart all had two hits, including doubles, for Detroit. Baez raised his batting average to .205 as he struggles in the first season of a $140 million, six-year contract he signed as a free agent.
Gregory Soto pitched a perfect ninth for his 11th save in 12 opportunities.
“Gregory’s outing was so quick, I didn’t even see it,” said Skubal, who was in the clubhouse when Soto took the mound. “I went to get a smoothie and it was over in eight pitches.”
Pittsburgh lefty Jose Quintana (1-3) was rocked for four runs and seven hits in 3 1/3 innings while striking out five and walking one. He had a 1.73 ERA over his previous seven starts.
“He just didn’t have the execution on the fastball that we’ve seen out of him, and the breaking stuff wasn’t as sharp,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “(Against) a predominately right-handed lineup, he just left balls in the middle (of the plate) and they were able to square them up.”
Pittsburgh rookie Cal Mitchell had two hits, one being a two-run homer to right field in the fourth that drew the Pirates to 4-3. It was just the second home run Skubal has allowed to a left-handed batter in his three-year career.
Barnhart’s RBI double in the eighth gave the Tigers an insurance run.
The Pirates’ Yu Chang doubled home the first run in the second. An inning later, Jonathan Schoop tied it with an RBI double.
Detroit snapped a three-game losing streak. Pittsburgh lost for just the second time in seven games.
The start was delayed 2 hours, 5 minutes by rain.
“Long day at the ballpark but it’s good to get a win,” Barnhart said.
Skubal was listed as the starting pitcher on the Tigers’ original lineup card.
However, Hinch decided to switch to reliever Wily Peralta about 30 minutes before the scheduled start time. During the delay, the Tigers again changed their minds and went back to Skubal.
The thinking behind the original move was because rain was forecast to arrive around the third inning, Hinch did not want to have to potentially remove Skubal from the game early. Once the start was delayed, the Tigers returned to their original plan.
“It was interesting, but it is what it is,” Skubal said. “I was already ready to pitch so (the switch) didn’t really affect me at all.”
Travis Swaggerty became the seventh Pirates player to make his major league debut this season. Starting in center field, he went 0 for 3.
The Pirates’ first-round draft pick in 2018 was called up Sunday from Triple-A Indianapolis.
Tigers: 3B Jeimer Candelario (left shoulder subluxation) was placed on the 10-day injured list and RF Austin Meadows (vertigo) was activated from the IL. The Tigers are hopeful Candelario will be ready to be reinstated June 16, the first day he is eligible. … RHP Casey Mize (sprained right elbow) has been shut down after being unable to throw from 90 feet and will seek additional medical opinions. The first overall pick in the 2018 amateur draft has been out since April 15. … LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (strained left ribcage) will make a rehab start Thursday for Triple-A Toledo. … RHP Matt Manning (right shoulder inflammation) has been cleared to resume throwing. … RHP Michael Pineda (fractured right middle finger) threw a bullpen. … RHP Jose Cisnero (right shoulder strain) and OFs Robbie Grossman (neck strain) and Victor Reyes (strained left quad) began rehab assignments with Toledo.
Pirates: LHP Dillon Peters (low back strain) was placed on the 15-day IL and LHP Aaron Fletcher was recalled from Indianapolis. … Double-A Altoona C Henry Davis (fractured left wrist), the first selection in last year’s amateur draft, begin a rehab assignment in the rookie-level Florida Complex League.
Tigers: Rookie RHP Alex Faedo (1-2, 3.09 ERA) will start Wednesday in the finale of the two-game series. He has allowed two runs or fewer in each of his six career starts.
Pirates: RHP Mitch Keller (2-5, 5.77) returned to the rotation May 31 after a brief bullpen stint and beat the Dodgers in Los Angeles.