Spencer Turnbull didn’t throw back-to-back no-hitters like Johnny Vander Meer in 1938, but he carried the Detroit Tigers through six innings and put his team in a position to take the series opener against Cleveland.
Then the bullpen had other ideas.
With the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh inning, right-hander Bryan Garcia threw a wild pitch to Jose Ramirez — giving Cleveland a 4-3 lead. After walking Ramirez, lefty Daniel Norris entered and gave up a two RBI single to Eddie Rosario for a three-run deficit.
The Tigers (18-29) couldn’t complete their comeback in a 6-5 loss to Cleveland at Comerica Park. After winning nine of 11 games from May 8-21, Detroit has dropped three in a row by a combined four runs.
Through six innings, Turnbull allowed three runs on seven hits and one walk. He logged three strikeouts and threw 53 of his 86 pitches for strikes. He now has a 3.12 ERA through seven starts this season, after missing most of April due to a positive COVID-19 test in spring training.
All seven hits against Turnbull were singles.
Joe Jimenez and Kyle Funkhouser pitched scoreless eighth and ninth innings. Jimenez threw 11 of his 12 pitches for strikes, recording two strikeouts. Cleveland closer Emmanuel Clase pitched around a walk, single and intentional walk (after falling behind 3-0 to Akil Baddoo) in the ninth inning, stranding the bases loaded.
For the final out, Cleveland right fielder Jordan Luplow made a diving catch to steal a walk-off single from Eric Haase.
The second of four games is set for 7:10 p.m. Tuesday. Left-hander Tarik Skubal is starting and seeking his second win in the major leagues. He is opposed by righty Aaron Civale.
Weak contact vs. Turnbull
Turnbull’s bid for consecutive no-hitters ended with the first batter in the second inning. Rosario laced a first-pitch fastball to center field for a single. Turnbull responded by generating his second of three double plays.
He got his first double play after plunking Cesar Hernandez in the foot to start the first inning.
Weak contact aided Turnbull throughout his start, but his defense didn’t help him in the third inning. The three consecutive singles against him were nearly outs, considering the exit velocities and expected batting averages: Owen Miller (79.7 mph, .070 xBA), Jake Bauers (65.7 mph, .380 xBA) and Rene Rivera (79.4 mph, .060 xBA).
After Rivera’s RBI single, Cesar Hernandez grounded into a force out to tie the game at two runs.
Cleveland tacked on its third run — once again, tying the game — in the sixth inning. Harold Ramirez lined a slider back at Turnbull. The ball deflected off his glove and ended up as an RBI infield single. After a mound visit, Josh Naylor popped out to third base to end Turnbull’s start.
Turnbull threw eight pitches in the first inning, four in the second, 28 in the third, 15 in the fourth, nine in the fifth and 22 in the sixth. Along with three double players, Turnbull induced eight ground-ball outs. Cleveland finished with an 83.4 mph average exit velocity against him.
Cleveland starter Sam Hentges allowed three runs on five hits and three walks, with seven strikeouts, through five innings for the third start (and seventh game) in his MLB career. He settled down by retiring six in a row through the fourth and fifth innings to conclude his outing.
Hentges allowed at least two players to reach the bases in the first, second and third innings. The Tigers went 3-for-13 with runners in scoring position and left nine players on the bases. They capitalized in the second and seventh innings — thanks to Willi Castro.
In the second inning, Castro smacked a bloop double down the right-field line. Traveling with a 66.7 mph exit velocity, his knock scored Niko Goodrum from second base. The next batter, Robbie Grossman, delivered a sacrifice fly for a 2-0 lead.
Castro struck again in the seventh inning, cutting the Tigers’ deficit to one run with a two-run homer against righty reliever Nick Wittgren. He got ahold of a fastball down in the strike zone and drove the ball 356 feet to right field.
After the Tigers allowed three runs in the top of the seventh, Castro gave them an opportunity to make a comeback. It was his third home run this season, and the first since May 7 against the Minnesota Twins.
Considering Castro’s .206 batting average, his two-hit, three-RBI performance was much needed.
Before Monday’s game, Victor Reyes returned from Triple-A Toledo after a 12-game stint. He was demoted May 8 because of his offensive struggles, raked for the Mud Hens and was quickly brought back to the majors — replacing JaCoby Jones.
Reyes started in center field against Cleveland. On Rivera’s RBI single in the third inning, he made a late read on the ball and poorly timed his head-first lunge. The ball rolled past him, and the first run allowed by Turnbull scored without a threat.
At the plate, Reyes went 1-for-3 with one walk and two strikeouts. He singled on a liner to left field in the seventh inning, setting up Castro’s two-run shot. With runners on first and second base with two outs in the eighth, he struck out swinging.
Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.