The Detroit Tigers will try to salvage the finale of a three-game series and halt the Minnesota Twins’ six-game winning streak on Thursday afternoon in Minneapolis.
Cooling down Max Kepler would make that task easier. Kepler has blasted three home runs during the first two games of the series, including a pair of solo shots in Minnesota’s 5-0 triumph on Wednesday.
Ryan Jeffers also homered while the Tigers were limited to two hits.
“They hit the ball out of the ballpark on a cold night,” Detroit manager A.J. Hinch said. “They put some good swings together, they didn’t miss a couple of pitches in the strike zone. Kepler, we have not done a good job sequencing against him, and he gave them a nice lead.”
The Tigers scored 13 runs on Saturday afternoon during the game in which Miguel Cabrera reached 3,000 hits in his career. The euphoria has worn off quickly. They have lost four straight, scoring eight runs total during that stretch.
Detroit third baseman Jeimer Candelario (.143), second baseman Jonathan Schoop (.154) and center fielder Akil Baddoo (.111) are among the players who have gotten off to very slow starts.
“It’s all individual,” Hinch said. “Collectively, when you don’t hit, you’re always looking for a theme, but each guy is battling something a little bit different. We’ve got to get our guys jump-started to have a better offense.”
Tarik Skubal (1-1, 2.30 ERA) will start the series finale for Detroit. The 25-year-old left-hander has shown excellent control in three starts, striking out 16 and walking just one in 15 2/3 innings. In his latest outing, Skubal tossed six scoreless innings and struck out six against Colorado on Saturday while collecting his first victory this season.
Skubal’s outing was overshadowed by Cabrera’s milestone.
“We joked with him that no one even remembers that he pitched and he was phenomenal,” Hinch said. “The difficulty pitching in a game like (Saturday), and the emotions that came with it, Tarik was in complete control of the game.”
Skubal has made six career starts against Minnesota, going 1-2 with a 4.66 ERA.
He will be opposed by Bailey Ober (1-1, 2.83 ERA). The second-year right-hander has also made three starts this season.
In his most recent appearance, he gave up one run and struck out six in five innings while getting a no-decision against the Chicago White Sox on Friday.
Ober started twice against the Tigers last season, posting a 1-0 record and a 5.79 ERA.
Minnesota won a pair of low-scoring games to begin its streak but has scored five or more runs during the past four victories. Kepler has strung together three consecutive two-hit games, raising his average from .191 to .263.
The Twins’ defense has made just one error during the six-game run. It backed a strong outing from starter Joe Ryan with a flawless effort on Wednesday.
“When they put the ball in play, we made all the plays,” Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli said. “Some of them were routine or fairly routine. Some of them weren’t and we finished the plays off.
“When you do make them … it allows your pitchers to stay out there and keep throwing. It all works together and complements itself. It was a good day all around for us.”
–Field Level Media