DETROIT — The last time a Tigers pitcher followed up a no-hitter, fans were treated to the Summer of Verlander, when seemingly every start was a no-hit bid in the making. Nothing about Monday’s 6-5 loss to Cleveland or Spencer Turnbull‘s performance suggested this will be the Summer of Spencer in that sense.
Yet much like Verlander’s second no-hitter in 2011 seemed to springboard him from one of the league’s better starters into an elite class and the winner of the AL MVP at year’s end, Turnbull has a chance to take a step forward in his career. Monday’s outing, while a no-decision that keeps him winless for his career against Cleveland, was a notable step.
Turnbull wasn’t unhittable, and the BABIP gods seemed almost vindictive against him with three softly hit singles in a two-run third inning. Yet, on a night when Turnbull didn’t have his best stuff, he kept both the Tigers and himself in the game, allowing three runs on seven hits over six innings.
It marked Turnbull’s third consecutive quality start. Not only had he never done that in his career, he hadn’t lasted six innings in three straight outings, regardless of damage allowed.
Though the Indians have been no-hit twice this season, they made Turnbull work, swinging and missing just five times compared to the 19 swings and misses he racked up in Seattle last Tuesday. Yet the balls Cleveland put in play off Turnbull averaged 83.4 mph in exit velocity, according to Statcast, compared to a 91 mph average velocity off Mariners bats.
Cleveland’s three third-inning singles combined for a .510 expected batting average, none hit 80 mph in exit velocity. The other run off Turnbull scored on a two-out line drive that hit his glove and bounced out for an infield single.
Three other Indians baserunners were erased on double plays, tying Turnbull’s career high and tripling his total from his previous six starts this season combined.
Not until a three-run seventh off Detroit’s bullpen did Cleveland pull ahead, including a run-scoring wild pitch from Bryan Garcia and an Eddie Rosario two-run single off Daniel Norris. Willi Castro’s two-run homer off Nick Wittgren brought the Tigers back within a run.