Detroit Tigers right-hander Spencer Turnbull took the mound for the first time this season — after a positive COVID-19 test in spring training — and looked electric in his return to the starting rotation.
Turnbull guided the Tigers (7-11) to a 5-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates in Game 2 of Wednesday’s seven-inning doubleheader at Comerica Park. The 28-year-old pitched five innings of one-run ball, allowing two hits and two walks. He registered six strikeouts.
He was backed by home runs from Niko Goodrum and Jonathan Schoop. The homer from Schoop sparked a three-run fifth inning to give the Tigers a 4-1 lead. Following that, Turnbull departed and the bullpen took over for the final two innings.
Right-hander Bryan Garcia relieved Turnbull for the sixth inning. He allowed a leadoff homer to Phillip Evans but retired the next three batters in order. Left-hander Gregory Soto pitched a perfect top of the seventh to secure the win.
In Game 1, the Tigers lost, 3-2, using right-hander Michael Fulmer and lefty Tarik Skubal to complete all seven innings. The Tigers had just three hits, two of which were doubles from Victor Reyes and Wilson Ramos. Making his MLB debut, Zack Short took the team’s only walks.
Detroit takes on Pittsburgh at 1:10 p.m. Thursday in the finale with hopes of winning the series. Right-hander Jose Urena is starting for the Tigers, opposed by righty Mitch Keller. In his previous start, Urena pitched seven innings against the Oakland Athletics, giving up two runs and striking out eight batters.
For his six strikeouts, Turnbull recorded one in the first inning, two in the second, two in the third and one in the fifth. His slider was his most dominant pitch, generating six of his eight swings-and-misses. He picked up two more whiffs with his four-seam fastball, which averaged 92.7 mph and topped out at 95.6 mph.
Turnbull was encouraging in all aspects Wednesday, including his efficiency.
He tossed 62 pitches (42 strikes) and looked confident enough to pitch deeper into the game, but manager AJ Hinch didn’t want to push him too hard in his first game back. He used 24 four-seamers, 21 sliders, 10 sinkers, four changeups and three curveballs.
The lone run against Turnbull came in the first inning. With two outs, he gave up a walk, a single and a double (by Erik Gonzalez) to put the Pirates on the scoreboard, as well as two runners in scoring position for veteran Gregory Polanco. But Turnbull struck him out with a slider to escape the jam.
After the RBI double in the first, Turnbull retired 13 of his next 14 opponents.
Niko Goodrum from the left, Akil Baddoo snap slump
Facing right-hander Miguel Yajure, Hinch slotted Goodrum in left field and placed him seventh in the batting order. Traditionally, the switch-hitting Goodrum struggles to make contact against righties, but hits for more power against them.
So, it wasn’t surprising when Goodrum crushed a game-tying home run in the third inning. He got a 90.9 mph fastball from Yajure and sent it beyond the left-center wall. It was his second homer this season. More surprising, however, was Goodrum’s five-pitch walk in the fifth inning.
He later scored on a double from Rule 5 draft pick Akil Baddoo to give the Tigers a 3-1 lead. Baddoo, 22, snapped an 0-for-15 streak at the plate, a product of pitchers making adjustments to him after the storybook start to his career. His hitless stretch included zero walks and eight strikeouts.
During his five-year MLB career, Goodrum has hit .204 with 29 home runs, 83 walks and 301 strikeouts against right-handed pitchers, while hitting.325 with five homers, 27 walks and 63 strikeouts against left-handed pitchers.
Jonathan Schoop finally slugs
Entering Wednesday’s doubleheader, Schoop was 8-for-49 (.163) with three walks and 18 strikeouts this season. He hadn’t hit a home run and had just two RBIs. In Wednesday’s 14 innings against the Pirates, the nine-year MLB veteran went 2-for-6 with one home run and two RBIs.
He put an exclamation point on the day with a go-ahead 403-foot homer to left-center field in the fifth. It was his first home run since Aug. 30, 2020. In Game 1 of the doubleheader, his two-out single to score Ramos snapped an 0-for-13 slump.
Last season, Schoop hit .278 with eight home runs and 23 RBIs in 44 games. He re-signed with the Tigers on a one-year, $4.5 million contract this offseason.