Command eludes Turnbull in loss to Yanks

Detroit Tigers

Aaron Hicks slammed his bat after striking out to strand the bases loaded in the third inning Saturday afternoon. Spencer Turnbull, who threw the high fastball that the Yankees outfielder chased for strike three, was just as angry, yelling at himself on his way off the mound. It was the rare strikeout where neither pitcher nor batter were happy, a sentiment that lingered after Detroit’s 6-4 loss at Yankee Stadium.

Yes, Turnbull escaped a jam with a strikeout, something he has done a few times over the past few years since breaking into the Tigers’ rotation. But he also walked two in his 31-pitch inning. DJ LeMahieu eventually scored on a Gleyber Torres two-out single. Mike Ford’s walk loaded the bases and extended the inning for Hicks, further pushing Turnbull’s pitch count.

As Turnbull watched from the Tigers’ dugout as Aaron Judge singled in two more runs in the sixth inning, the right-hander had further reason for frustration. Both runners reached base off Turnbull without putting a ball in play. He hit Hicks with a 1-2 pitch to begin the inning, then walked Gary Sánchez on five pitches to end his outing.

Though the Tigers broke out of their three-game offensive slump with their highest run total since Tuesday, including home runs from Jeimer Candelario and Niko Goodrum, the add-on runs off Turnbull proved critical. He finished with four runs on five hits over five-plus innings in Detroit’s 14th loss in 16 games and Turnbull’s second loss in three starts this season. He also finished with a reminder of the need to attack and command the strike zone.

While Turnbull averaged 94 mph with his fastball and 95.3 mph with his sinker, both well above his average from his previous two starts, he struggled to get both past hitters for strikes. The Yankees swung 27 times on his fastballs and sinkers, 39 times overall, and missed just twice — once for Hicks’ strikeout. Turnbull had 14 called strikes for the game, but also 17 foul balls. He walked just two batters over 11 innings in his previous couple outings, but surpassed that Saturday.

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