Party poopers: Red Sox KO Spencer Turnbull, ruin Tigers’ home opener

Detroit News

Detroit — It was an evocation, a reminder of what the sports landscape in Detroit used to look like at this time of year.

First Ben Wallace was introduced, the warrior of the “Going to Work” Pistons. Then came Calvin Johnson, Megatron, the Lions’ all-time leading receiver. The Lions have played three playoff games since 1999 and he was in two of them.

Nick Lidstrom came bounding up the dugout steps next to make it a triumvirate of Detroit sports heroes. He helped the Red Wings win four Stanley Cups.

Three Hall of Fame players in the middle of the diamond at Comerica Park, players who produced some of the greatest sports memories this city has known, primed to throw out ceremonial first pitches before the Tigers’ home opener Thursday.

And you knew what was coming next. The tie-in to the moment at hand.

Lidstrom looked into the dugout and waved his hand toward Miguel Cabrera. Wallace and Johnson did the same and out jogged Cabrera to a huge roar.

What a moment. What a way to commemorate the final home opener in Cabrera’s 21-year career and to recognize where that career will most assuredly lead him in five years — to Cooperstown.

Cabrera fed the narrative, too, slapping a two-out RBI single to put the Tigers up 3-1 in the third inning, but the fun soon ended. The Boston Red Sox spoiled the day beating the Tigers, 6-3, in front of a sellout crowd of 44,650.

BOX SCORE: Red Sox 6, Tigers 3

“We appreciate the fans coming out,” manager AJ Hinch said. “We love the environment and the excitement. Taking the lead, the hat-tip to Miggy, the Hall of Famers throwing out the first pitch — there is only one first day every year and Detroit does it right.”

Things went awry in the sixth inning.

Right-hander Spencer Turnbull, making his second start after missing 19 months recovering from Tommy John surgery, grinded through the first five innings. A leadoff walk came back to bite him in the third inning and Rafael Devers sent a 93-mph fastball into the seats leading off the fourth.

But, with the help of a couple of double-play balls and with his first career pickoff (of Kiké Hernandez), his pitch count was in good shape and he was clinging to a 3-2 lead.

“I think it was an improvement from last week, but it’s still frustrating,” said Turnbull, who didn’t survive the third inning against the Rays last week. “With some of the positive changes I made, some of the mechanical changes, things were better but I still struggled a little bit. It’s tough to make a big adjustment in five days.”

Then came the sixth.

Hernandez started the inning with a comebacker that Turnbull awkwardly avoided. He went down in a crouch, clearly in pain, rubbing the back of his neck.

“It was a neck stinger,” he said. “I had to wait for the pain to go away. Once it subsided, I was all right.”

He stayed in the game but got only one more out.

A single by Alex Verdugo set up an RBI double by Devers. Turnbull walked Masataka Yoshida. With Turnbull at 72 pitches, runners at the corners and the white-hot Adam Duvall coming to the plate, Hinch summoned right-handed reliever Jose Cisnero.

“That was more of strategic move,” Hinch said, saying it had nothing to do with Turnbull’s neck. “We wanted to get higher velo up in the zone. Just didn’t get the ball up.”

Cisnero threw a 95-mph fastball on the outer edge of the plate. But it was middle, not up. Duvall, who entered the game hitting .476, cleared the bases, blasting a 414-foot, three-run homer to center field to break the 3-3 tie. It was his third home run.

“I thought I threw a very good pitch,” Cisnero said. “I put it outside. But he got it.”

Turnbull, who gave up seven runs in 2⅓ innings in his first start, had five of the six Red Sox runs on his tab in this one. Against the Rays, he needed his slider, one of his most vital weapons, but it failed him. He had a better feel for his slider in this one, but he didn’t need it. He only threw six of them.

“Honestly, it was just what the game dictated,” Turnbull said. “I didn’t need it as much. It felt better in warm-ups. I probably could have used it more. But the situations where I needed to use off-speed, my changeup was working good.”

Of his 72 pitches, 46 were fastballs (25 four-seamers and 21 sinkers). He got one swing and miss, that with a changeup. The velocity on both fastballs was down considerably — 1.6 mph under his norm with the four-seamer, 2.6 mph less on his sinker.

“My stuff is definitely down a little bit and that is frustrating,” Turnbull said. “But I know it will get there. I had a lot of fun today. The results are still frustrating but I’m taking the good with the bad. There was a lot of improvement from last week and I know for sure my mindset was where I want it to be.

“My stuff wasn’t good, but my mindset was good and that’s all I can ask of myself going into the next one.”

The journey back from Tommy John surgery is never a linear path for any pitcher.

“I was hopeful I would come back and be lights out from Day 1,” Turnbull said. “Obviously that didn’t happen. It might be a little bit more of a process, but I am going to get there. It shouldn’t take long.”

Jake Rogers’ 414-foot, two-run home run off Red Sox starter Chris Sale in the second inning turned out to be the loudest hit of the day for the Tigers. They only got two hits off four Boston relievers.

“It was such great energy today,” left fielder Eric Haase said. “Opening Day in Detroit is a party. I just wish we could’ve done more damage early against Chris Sale. But, again, he’s Chris Sale.”

The game started with an evocation of the glory days. It ended with another sobering reminder that those days are gone.

Twitter: @cmccosky

We’re offering a great rate on digital subscriptions. Click here.

Articles You May Like

Erie Offense Strands 12 in Loss to Somerset
Pennsylvania Lottery Online Plays
Riley Greene Floppy Hat Day at Comerica Park
Pinch-hit home run from Zack Short blasts Detroit Tigers to 6-4 win over Kansas City Royals
Tigers’ Matt Manning hopes to face live hitting soon: ‘I like where I’m at’

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *