Turnbull ready to follow up no-hitter

Detroit Tigers

“I mean, I don’t know if life’s changed a ton. I definitely picked up some more followers on Instagram and stuff like that,” he said Sunday.

The last time a Tiger tried to follow up a no-hitter, Justin Verlander held the Royals hitless for 5 2/3 innings and finished with eight innings of two-hit ball, setting up a summer of 2011 in which every start seemed like a countdown of outs for another chance at a no-no.

A decade later, nobody is expecting Turnbull to go on that kind of tear. The way his season was going before the no-hitter, stringing together another strong start would be a step toward some much-desired consistency. In that sense, his no-no — which was also his first career complete game — could be the springboard to another level that Verlander’s no-hitter was for him in an eventual MVP season.

“I feel like the other night was one of the first times I was able to fully, completely stay locked in and not really ever get out of it,” Turnbull said. “There were definitely some moments early in the game. The fifth inning, I remember having some thoughts, just some negative thoughts, some fearful thoughts, fear of failure or whatever else. But that’s the first time probably I’ve been able to consistently stay locked in and in my zone for the whole game and didn’t come out of it. I think being able to do that, and show myself that I can do it, was pretty cool.”

If Turnbull wanted to give fans at Comerica Park a look at what they missed, he might have the opponent for it. Like the Mariners, the Indians have been no-hit twice this season, by White Sox lefty Carlos Rodón on April 14 and by Cincinnati’s Wade Miley on May 7. They’ve been shut out four times this season, most recently last Friday by Randy Dobnak and two Twins relievers. Cleveland entered Sunday with a .213 team batting average and ranked next to last in the American League, better only than the aforementioned Mariners.

If Turnbull is going to have an encore performance, however, he’s going to have to avoid negative thoughts and change his history against a division rival that has generally beaten him. He’s 0-6 with a 5.18 ERA in nine career appearances against Cleveland, eight of them starts.

“The no-hitter in Seattle doesn’t really help him face the Indians,” Detroit manager A.J. Hinch said Sunday morning. “I don’t think the Indians care too much about the fact he no-hit the Mariners. So you remind these guys that the game plan can be very different, the focus has to be the same.”

Most of Turnbull’s struggles against Cleveland happened in 2019, when he went 0-5 with a 5.70 ERA in six meetings. He allowed just three homers in 30 innings, but 43 hits took their toll, and he took a hard-luck no-decision for five innings of one-run ball with eight strikeouts in a 2-1 loss at Progressive Field that September.

Turnbull fared better against the Indians last season, but he still took a loss and a no-decision, the latter despite six innings of two-run ball and seven strikeouts in September at Comerica Park.

“There’s no love lost there,” Turnbull said. “I actually know some of the guys on the team, so it’s not like a hate thing. But there’s definitely a strong desire to win.”

Turnbull missed Detroit’s first two series against Cleveland this year while he was on the COVID-19 injured list. He won’t have to face slugger Franmil Reyes, whom Cleveland placed on the 10-day injured list Sunday, but Reyes was just 1-for-6 off Turnbull anyway.

Monday could be an opportunity for Turnbull to lean on his power arsenal. While he has allowed a mere .170 batting average off his four-seam fastball with a 22.9 percent whiff rate, according to Statcast, Cleveland entered Sunday batting an AL-worst .220 off four-seam fastballs.

If there’s one thing he learned pitching-wise, Turnbull said, it would be the value of first-pitch strikes and that he can pitch to contact if he trusts his stuff.

“I’ve believed that for a while now,” he said, “but kind of changing mindsets about that to get better, being aggressive, getting ahead, trusting yourself. All the same things that people have said for a while, but kind of taking a while to get there.”

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