Spencer Turnbull sharp in 2nd start, but Detroit Tigers drop it in 9th, 4-3, to Yankees

Detroit Free Press

LAKELAND, Fla. — The Detroit Tigers lost to New York Yankees, 4-3, on Friday at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium.

The Tigers are 8-7 in Grapefruit League play.

What happened

Right-hander Spencer Turnbull sounded confident warming up in the bullpen.

“Oh yeah, that feels good,” he told catcher Eric Haase.

Turnbull was talking about his slider before the game, and his slider looked dynamite through the first two innings against the Yankees. The 30-year-old pitched his second game since returning from Tommy John surgery. He allowed one run on one hit and one walk with three strikeouts across 2⅓ innings.

“It was much tighter today,” Turnbull said of his slider afterward. “That’s what I want. I found it this week in the bullpen session. I thought it was a little bit of grip pressure, and it’s more my load and my hips. It took a minute to figure out what it was, and once we figured it out, the consistency is back to where I want it. I’m excited about that.”

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In the seventh inning, backup catcher Andrew Knapp hit a tying home run to straightaway center. The Tigers’ top three catchers — Knapp, Haase and Jake Rogers — finished 4-for-5 with two home runs, two singles and one strikeout.

The Yankees took a 4-3 lead in the top of the ninth on an RBI single from Anthony Seigler. Right-hander Billy Lescher, called up from minor-league camp, started the inning with a five-pitch walk.

Starting off

Turnbull retired the first seven batters he faced.

He struck out DJ LeMahieu (87.3 mph slider), Aaron Hicks (86.7 mph slider) and Isiah Kiner-Falefa (94.8 mph fastball). He recorded a swinging strikeout against LeMahieu and a called strikeout against Hicks. His ability to land his slider for a strike at the bottom of the zone stood out.

“He threw the ball very well,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “The slider took a step forward. Second outing, I thought it was a really good day for him. He got a little tired at the end, as he should be. He’s got to get to those thresholds.”

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Fatigue set in for Turnbull during the third inning.

He retired the first batter but walked Carlos Narvaez on seven pitches. A passed ball by Haase allowed the runner to advance to second base. Billy McKinney, the next batter, tagged Turnbull’s full-count slider for an RBI single.

“I was too results-focused on that slider,” Turnbull said. “I was probably thinking about not walking him instead of just throwing my best slider. Honestly, a walk there wouldn’t have hurt me too bad anyway, instead of a bad slider that I’m trying to make sure stays in the zone and it’s not sharp.

“As soon as I start getting in that negative, like what could go wrong, instead of being aggressive, that’s when things go wrong quickly. I’m glad it happened now. That’s a quick mental adjustment.”

After the single, Turnbull was removed from the game and replaced by right-handed reliever Kervin Castro, who walked LeMahieu but sent down the next two batters to conclude his outing.

Turnbull threw 27 of 45 pitches for strikes and generated six whiffs with four fastballs, one slider and one sinker.

His fastball averaged 94.1 mph.

“I was putting my fastball right where I wanted,” Turnbull said. “I would like to be seeing some 6s and 7s (96-97 mph). But it’s March 10. I’m not really worried about that. I’m happy with where it’s at right now.”

At the plate

Facing Yankees right-hander Luis Severino, the Tigers scored the first run of the game in the second inning. A mistake from Severino — a hanging slider — allowed Haase to capitalize. He punished the ball for a solo home run to left-center.

Haase has three homers this spring.

“We’ve seen this out of Haasey quite a bit,” Hinch said. “He makes the adjustment and doesn’t miss a mistake.”

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The Tigers scored their second run with two outs in the third inning.

Kerry Carpenter chased outside of the strike zone to fall behind 0-2 in the count. He fouled the next two pitches before Severino tossed him a 96.5 mph four-seam fastball. The ball traveled up and in, but Carpenter turned on it for a solo home run to right, putting the Tigers ahead, 2-1.

His second homer of the spring was a no-doubter.

“If we stay in the strike zone, we can do a lot of damage,” Hinch said.

On the mound

Joey Wentz is being built up as a starting pitcher, but since the Tigers’ starting rotation is full, the left-hander pitched out of the bullpen against the Yankees. He allowed two runs in the fourth inning.

Wentz walked Rafael Ortega, the leadoff hitter, and then gave up a two-run home run to Kiner-Falefa. To end the inning, he fired three straight four-seam fastballs — 94 mph, 93.5 mph and 95 mph — to strike out Narvaez.

“His stuff was really good, and even some of his misses that were over the plate were still pretty effective,” Hinch said. “It was a volume day for him. We weren’t going to let him go over 60 (pitches). When he’s in the strike zone, he’s really good.”

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Wentz turned in a scoreless fifth inning and recorded two outs in the sixth before right-hander Rony Garcia replaced him. The 25-year-old, whose 56 pitches (33 strikes) included 50% cutters and 38% four-seamers, allowed two runs on three hits and one walk with six strikeouts over 2⅔ innings.

His cutter produced eight of his 12 swings and misses.

Garcia delivered 1⅓ scoreless innings, followed by left-hander Jace Fry striking out the side in the eighth inning while throwing 12 of 15 pitches for strikes. He struck out Benjamin Cowles (79.3 mph slider), Everson Pereira (82.1 mph changeup) and T.J. Rumfield (89.8 mph changeup).

Lescher surrendered the game-winning run in the ninth.

Three stars

1. Turnbull; 2. Haase; 3. Fry.

Next up

Saturday (1:05 p.m.) vs. Atlanta Braves in North Port.

Contact Evan Petzold at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.

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