Detroit Tigers’ Spencer Turnbull struggles with mechanics, but key play was Indians’ bunt

Detroit Free Press

Without trying to, Spencer Turnbull summed up the Detroit Tigers’ 3-1 loss to the Cleveland Indians on Saturday.

When the right-hander thought about how much worse the third inning could have been, he took comfort in limiting the damage to two runs after he walked the first two batters.

“I feel like if I’d been a little sharper it could’ve been a different game,” he said. “It’s frustrating. But it could have been worse. I guess that’s a positive.”

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Tigers batters could have said the same thing. Shane Bieber struck them out 11 times and they were mowed down 12 times overall. Yet, they managed to bring the winning run to the plate in the ninth inning.

Could have been better, but it definitely could have been worse.

“The game kind of dragged, their guy was filthy and we didn’t go anywhere for a long time,” Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We still had our chance there in the end, which was kind of exciting. The guys kept playing. We had an opportunity against their closer. Just missed a couple balls.”

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Turnbull (2-1) didn’t pitch poorly, but he wasn’t great, either. He lasted 4⅔ innings, as the Tigers (9-9) lost their fourth straight and dropped their 19th consecutive game to Cleveland.

‘He was just misfiring today, getting behind,” Gardenhire said. “He’s got such good stuff he never really blew up.”

Turnbull’s command was an issue, partly because he thought about his mechanics too much, and had a hard time getting out of his own way against a disciplined, good-hitting team.

“I don’t think my mentality was as good as it needed to be and it cost me,” he said. “I’ve been working on some stuff mechanically since last week and I was feeling better.

“But I think I was thinking too much. Just stay aggressive, work on strike one. So I got out of that a little bit. I was throwing behind a lot.”

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The Indians (12-9) stayed patient and got into deep counts against Turnbull, who threw 97 pitches. And when they weren’t working the count, they were messing with Turnbull’s head by playing small ball.

Turnbull walked Sandy Leon and Oscar Mercado to start the third. Then Cesar Hernandez laid down a great bunt in front of the mound. Turnbull pounced but when he prepared to throw, he couldn’t believe what he saw.

“I think the bunt kind of pushed me over the edge more than the rest of it,” he said. “I felt I got there pretty quick, fielded it aggressively and cleanly. I looked up and he’s already standing on first.

“So I was like, ‘What the heck?’ I knew he was a good runner. I didn’t feel like he was Usain Bolt out there.”

Turnbull admitted he was rattled. He threw one of his few curveballs of the game to the next hitter, Jose Ramirez, who smacked a line drive over right fielder Cameron Maybin that scored two runs.

Turnbull got out the inning without any more damage. It could have been worse. But Turnbull knew the truth. Against a good team like Cleveland, the margin for error was too small and unforgiving for a team like the Tigers to overcome.

“I could have been better,” he said. “But it is what it is. Win as a team, lose as a team. It is what it is. I am frustrated. I feel like I dropped the ball a little bit.”

Contact Carlos Monarrez at and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez. The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here’s how you can gain access to our most exclusive Tigers content. 

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