Detroit Tigers right-hander Spencer Turnbull walked off the mound and into the dugout to an ovation at Comerica Park.
Following two consecutive below-average starts, Turnbull limited the Kansas City Royals to one run across 6⅓ innings Thursday. The offense gave him run support, scoring four runs in the second inning.
The Tigers (13-24) leaned on Turnbull to carry them into the seventh inning, and the bullpen arms — thanks to an emergency close from Michael Fulmer — finished the job for a 4-3 win to sweep the Royals in three games.
Kanas City has lost 11 games in a row. The Royals scored two runs off closer Gregory Soto in the top of the ninth, but Fulmer slammed the door with back-to-back outs to give the Tigers a four-game winning streak.
In the past eight games, the offense is 84-for-283 (.297) with 10 doubles, four triples, four home runs, 37 walks and 79 strikeouts. And the Tigers have a 5-3 record during this stretch, which dates back to their Fenway Park arrival May 4 to face the Boston Red Sox.
The Tigers host the Chicago Cubs for a three-game slate from Friday through Sunday. Left-hander Tarik Skubal starts Friday, opposed by righty Jake Arrieta. Skubal is followed by Jose Urena and Matthew Boyd in the starting rotation.
Through 6⅓ innings, Turnbull allowed one run on six hits and one walk. He struck out seven batters and improved his ERA to 3.91 in five starts.
Of Turnbull’s six hits allowed, all of them were singles. He threw 68 of his 99 pitches for strikes. Turnbull struck out Salvador Perez twice — with a fastball and slider — and got two strikeouts against Ryan O’Hearn with a fastball and curveball.
Turnbull used 17 pitches in the first inning, 11 in the second, 18 in the third, 13 in the fourth, 10 in the fifth and 20 in the sixth. He needed 10 pitches for one out in the seventh.
In the fifth, Turnbull plunked Taylor with the first pitch of the at-bat before Nicky Lopez singled to put runners on the corners. When Whit Merrifield grounded into a double play, Taylor scored to put the Royals on the board.
Although Turnbull used 41 four-seam fastballs, his slider was the best pitch in his arsenal. He threw his slider 21 times and got 10 swings and misses. He also tossed 18 two-seam fastballs/sinkers, 12 curveballs and seven change-ups.
He got 16 swings and misses and 12 called strikes.
Attacking youngster early
The Tigers scored four runs off Royals starter Daniel Lynch in the second inning, which started with a bloop single from Miguel Cabrera to right field. After Niko Goodrum was called out on strikes, the offense collected three hits in a row: Eric Haase’s double, Willi Castro’s RBI single and JaCoby Jones’ RBI single.
Jones advanced to second on a fielding error by right fielder Jorge Soler. Akil Baddoo followed with a sacrifice fly to center field, and Robbie Grossman turned the lineup over with an RBI single to center field for a 4-0 lead.
In the third, Lynch earned back-to-back outs — including his second strikeout of Jeimer Candelario — before allowing back-to-back singles from Goodrum and Haase.
With runners on the corners, Royals manager Mike Matheny replaced Lynch with reliever Tyler Zuber, who struck out Castro for the third out. Lynch allowed four runs (three earned) on seven hits. He did not allow a walk, registered four strikeouts and threw 46 of his 66 pitches for strikes.
The Royals drafted Lynch with the 34th overall pick in 2018. His start against the Tigers was the third in his MLB career. The 24-year-old hadn’t pitched above High-A in the minor leagues, doing so in 2019, because the minors were canceled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lynch has a 15.75 ERA.
Haase’s 2021 debut
Haase joined the Tigers on Wednesday because catcher Grayson Greiner went to the 10-day injured list with a left hamstring strain. He made his season debut Thursday and went 2-for-4 with a double and infield single. He grounded into an inning-ending double play in the fifth and struck out looking in the eighth.
Haase, 28, has now played 27 MLB games in parts of four seasons. He logged nine and 10 games in the 2018 and 2019 seasons, respectively, for Cleveland. In 2020, he played seven games for the Tigers. He entered Thursday with 49 at-bats at the major-league level.
This spring, Haase went 7-for-19 (.368) with three home runs, seven RBIs, four walks and seven strikeouts. With Triple-A Toledo this season, he was 6-for-17 (.353) with three RBIs, three walks and eight strikeouts before getting called up.
Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.