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'Tough to hit': Turnbull tames Phillies with uncomfortable at-bats

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Tigers pitcher Spencer Turnbull delivers during the first inning against the Phillies on Tuesday.

Philadelphia — It's not what he wants as his calling card, by any means. But for right now, if you want to call Spencer Turnbull "effectively wild," he won't fight you on it.

"Whatever works," the rookie right-hander said Tuesday after helping the Tigers snap a four-game losing streak with six strong innings in a 3-1 win over the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. "I'm definitely rolling with that term right now. Just trying to get outs.

"I'll do whatever I can to get outs."

Turnbull, the last remaining active member of the original starting rotation, walked two batters, hit two more and threw three wild pitches. But when he walked off the mound after six innings, he'd allowed a run and just three hits against a formidable Phillies lineup.

BOX SCORE: Tigers 3, Phillies 1

"His best pitch is usually his slider and the first couple of innings he didn't have complete command with it," catcher Grayson Greiner said. "But what made him successful, he was able to flip some curveballs in there and mix in a few change-ups when he didn't have the slider.

"Then, in the fourth, fifth and sixth, he was able to find his slider. When he has that sink, cut, slider, change-up and curve, he can be tough to hit."

Turnbull, pitching in temperatures 31-degrees warmer than his last start, had five strikeouts and eight ground ball outs. He stranded runners in scoring position in each of the first three innings, mostly with walks and wild pitches.

"You get frustrated but you know it's over and done with," Turnbull said. "You've got to keep attacking the next hitter. I had good movement on my fastball, going both ways, and I was able to get a lot of ground balls and weak contact.

"I was pretty confident even if I got a couple of guys on, I could still get a double play or a ground ball to keep them from moving around too much."

More: Slow the roll: Tigers see no sense in rushing Casey Mize

Of his 15 swings and misses, seven were with his four-seam fastball. He also got 14 called strikes. The average exit velocity on balls was 83.6 mph. Lots of weak contact.

"He did a great job and gave us a chance to win," Greiner said. 

The lone run came in the first and it was aided by a couple of defensive misplays and a wild pitch. Andrew McCutchen led off with a ground ball to the right side. Second baseman Ronny Rodriguez was shifted to the left side, but still got to the ball.

He tried to make a sliding play and ended up kicking the ball into right field.

McCutchen went to second on a wild pitch and scored on an infield single by Rhys Hoskins. Rodriguez dived and stopped the ball, but his throw from his knees went over the Phillies dugout.

As he crossed the plate, McCutchen raised his arms like a football official signaling a made field goal. It was the last good thing that happened for the Phillies on this night.

"This was a nice win for us," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We'd lost a few, a few tough ones, so we needed this. It was a nice win against a very good team." 

The Tigers did their damage against Phillies starter Vince Velasquez in the third inning, hitting for the cycle and scoring three runs.

Nick Castellanos started it with a double that traveled maybe 120 feet. He hit it sky high and neither Hoskins nor Hernandez found it in time to catch it.

Miguel Cabrera followed with an RBI single, then trotted home on a 381-foot home run to right field by Niko Goodrum. Goodrum, down in the count 1-2, fouled off two pitches, took one in the dirt, fouled off yet another and then got a fastball he could handle and drove it out.

Rodriguez completed the cycle, hitting a triple off the fence in center.

The Tigers got Velasquez out of the game in the fourth. After a two-out walk to Jeimer Candelario and a single by Castellanos, he was at 99 pitches.

The downside to that, they were having good swings against Velasquez. They didn’t do much of anything against a parade of four Phillies relievers. They managed one hit — a pinch-hit single by Harold Castro, who arrived from Toledo in the third inning — after the fourth. 

More: Tigers deal with more rotation juggling; Josh Harrison lands on IL

"The big thing for me, though, was Alcantara and Jimenez," Gardenhire said. "It was nice to see them step up. We're going to need them."

Victor Alcantara followed Turnbull with a clean seventh. Joe Jimenez, back in the eight-inning setup role after a brief hiatus, dispatched the heart of the Phillies order — Jean Segura (ground out), Bryce Harper (strikeout) and Hoskins (strikeout).

"He looked like he was pitching angry," Greiner said of Jimenez. "He was coming right at guys. He didn't care who was in the box, he just reared back and threw. When he went through his little rough stretch, he might've had a little doubt.

"Today, it felt like he was just pitching angry, saying I'm going to come after everybody."

That left it to closer Shane Greene, who hadn't pitched in seven days and gave up a leadoff single to J.T. Realmuto. But he struck out Nick Williams, Hernandez and Maikel Franco to earn his 12th save. 

Turnbull, afterwards, was lamenting the fact that he hit more batters than he had hit baseballs in his three at-bats. He struck out all three times, including ending the second inning and leaving the bases loaded.

"Definitely need some work on my swing," he said, sheepishly. "It's nothing I'm proud of at the moment. I mean, 96 mph is invisible. I can't even see it. I don't know if I've ever seen something that hard before."

Now he knows how the hitters feel facing him.

Twitter: @cmccosky