'It snowballed': Tigers fizzle in Turnbull's debut, fall to Twins

Lynn Henning
The Detroit News
Tigers rookie starting pitcher Spencer Turnbull allowed six earned runs in four innings of work Wednesday.

Detroit — If you follow the Tigers and missed this one, good call.

Not that the weather wasn't right at Comerica Park. It was a dandy 71 degrees at first pitch.

But then the Tigers messed up by playing the Twins, which brought an 8-2 defeat and nothing approximating a Tigers heartbeat until they scrambled for a couple of runs in the ninth, thanks to two of their four total hits.

The Tigers lost all three games to Minnesota, which bothered Ron Gardenhire for reasons other than that he formerly managed the Twins.

"We just had a bad day out there," Gardenhire said, and here he was talking about pretty much everything: hitting, pitching, and any other baseball-related skill.

BOX SCORE: Twins 8, Tigers 2

More: Ron Gardenhire rails about missed cutoffs by Tigers outfielders

Spencer Turnbull started for the Tigers, which enthused plenty of Tigers students who know how his 96-mph fastball, and barely less torrid two-seamer, can make him one tough hombre.

Turnbull, making his MLB debut, zipped through the Twins with a 1-2-3 first, on 12 pitches, including a 96-mph sinker to whiff Jake Cave for Turnbull's first big-league strikeout.

But then he reminded everyone why he's a rookie. And why, for all the power portfolio a former second-round pick bears, he can sometimes come unglued.

Minnesota stuck him for four runs and 36 pitches in the second, getting three hits, a walk and a balk, and that was good enough to mangle Turnbull's first big-league start.

"He just started misfiring and spinning off the ball," Gardenhire said. "He's got the whole package, but sometimes what happens is a pitcher starts outthinking himself rather than just throwing the ball."

Turnbull is a right-handed twirler who on Tuesday turned 26 and who four years ago was a Tigers second-round pick from the University of Alabama.

He agreed afterward that "things started to speed up," and that he "just couldn't seem to get an out, and then it snowballed," which was pretty clear when Turnbull balked and two runners took free bases.

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"That was tough," he said. "The game was speeding up on me and I rushed and didn't come set."

Gardenhire knows how it goes. He's seen rookies. He also understands what needs to happen if powerhouse prospects are going to be powerhouse active-roster adds.

"He's got a great arm," Gardenhire said. "His ball has great movement. But he's got to understand that and not overcook it.

"You have to trust what people are telling you."

There was, of course, a message there. Gardenhire has been delivering daily verbal telegrams to players he's getting a wee bit tired of reminding about things that should be basic, such as hitting cutoff men (a botched relay in the first Wednesday, a throwing error on Mikie Mahtook in the fourth).

But the skipper would also concede ahead of anyone that he's running, shall we say, a team that these days is not to be confused with a playoff roster.

Among Tigers starters Wednesday were: Pete Kozma, Ronny Rodriguez, Dawel Lugo, Jim Adduci, Christin Stewart, and JaCoby Jones. 

The only starters with any barnacles were Castellanos, who not coincidentally had half of the Tigers' hits, as well as James McCann, and Mahtook.

The Tigers had only two singles through eight innings -- from Castelanos and JaCoby Jones -- until the ninth. Kozma led off with a single, Stewart walked, and Castellanos drove in a run with a double against the right-field fence. Stewart scored on a sacrifice fly from Mahtook.

Matt Hall, another rookie pitcher who arrived this month, had a better time than Turnbull against the Twins. Hall, a left-hander who has quite the curveball, pitched strong sixth and seventh innings, allowing only one baserunner on a walk.

He gave up two runs in the eighth, but a swinging-bunt single was part of the damage in what otherwise was a nifty stint. In line with notes scouts have been taking since Hall was drafted in 2015, Hall showed a fastball Wednesday that was better than its radar readings (89-91).

"You don't often see that type of fastball that goes up in the zone," Gardenhire said. "It was a good step for him."

The Tigers are 61-91 with 10 games to play in their 2018 schedule. A four-game set against the Royals begins Thursday night at Comerica Park, the last home dates in 2018.    


Twitter: @Lynn_Henning