Milwaukee — This was Spencer Turnbull’s third MLB start. As environments to pitch in go, they don’t get much more hostile than Miller Park on Sunday.
“I thought Cleveland was loud,” said Turnbull, who made his big-league debut with a scoreless inning against the Indians earlier this month. “This was unbelievable, just crazy that atmosphere.”
Still, he was OK until Christian Yelich stepped in the box in the first inning. Yelich has been the hottest hitter in baseball the month of September, and he’s a leading candidate for National League MVP honors.
“Hearing the chants of, 'MVP, MVP,' I was like, ‘I can’t let that guy beat me,’” Turnbull said. “I just started nibbling a little bit, trying to pitch around him a little bit. I ended up walking him and that turned into a run.”
The crowd got even louder after that and before Turnbull could regain composure, two runs had scored. But here’s the key — he did regain his composure and the next two times he faced Yelich, he struck him out.
“I was proud of myself that I didn’t nibble at Yelich the next couple of times,” he said. “Knowing he’s the hottest hitter on the planet, I let him get in my head the first time up. After that I said, 'I am not going to be scared of anybody,' and I went right after him.”
Turnbull, on adrenaline overload in the first inning, was pumping his fastball at 96-97 mph and his control was spotty. But after he settled in, his velocity fell back to a more controllable 93-94 mph and he posted seven straight outs.
His only other mistake was leaving an 0-1 fastball over the heart of the plate to Jesus Aguilar. That pitch ended up in the right field seats, his 35th home run.
He responded to that home run with six straight outs, including four straight strikeouts. He struck out the side in the fifth.
“This was such a great experience,” Turnbull said. “I definitely have to get better on the mental side of the game and try to eliminate these rough first innings. But it’s a learning experience. I am just figuring this stuff out a little bit.
“I am going to take the good with the bad and stay positive with it. I thought I did a lot of things well today.”
Turnbull was pulled after giving up a pair of singles to start the sixth and the Brewers began flexing their muscle against a weary Tigers bullpen. They turned the game into a rout with a six-run outburst in the seventh inning.
Tigers general manager Al Avila on Saturday said the organization has not decided whether to tender catcher James McCann a contract offer for 2019.
The news was a little jarring considering McCann has been the team’s starting catcher since 2015 and is under team control until 2021.
But, his offensive production plummeted this season (.220/.267/.314) and the Tigers are considering all options.
“It’s not any different for me,” McCann said after going 1-for-4 Sunday. “I am going to prepare to play in 2019 and go about my business the same way. I can’t control other things that happen. I will be ready to play one way or another.”
The Tigers are sending rookie outfielder Christin Stewart to have his sore abdominal muscle examined this week.
Stewart is expected to see Dr. William Meyers in Philadelphia early in the week.
“We just need to make sure it’s not anything more than we think it is,” manager Ron Gardenhire said.
Dr. Meyers is a groin-core muscle specialist and has treated Jose Iglesias and Daniel Norris this season.
Around the horn
Sunday's 11-0 loss marked the 18th time the Tigers were shutout this season. That leads the Major Leagues.
It’s the third most shutouts the Tigers have had in a season, tying the 1952 team.
…Gardenhire incurred the wrath of the fans at Miller Park in the seventh inning when he ordered an intentional pass to Yelich.
There were runners at second and third and Yelich was two RBIs short of the National League lead. And that, RBIs, was the only Triple Crown category he wasn’t leading.