Growing woes: Spencer Turnbull exits early, Tigers drop seventh straight
Detroit — With Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez in town this weekend, along with the 1984 World Series champions, the Tigers will get an up-close look at a glorious past.
But with the fragility of Detroit's young arms shown this week along with the stark contrast of transformative power hitting against none, those days seem so far away.
The Rangers handed the Tigers their seventh straight loss and second straight series sweep with a 3-1 victory at Comerica Park, with the uncertainty surrounding rookie right-hander Spencer Turnbull's setback.
“We’re together in this,” Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We’ll continue getting after it. We just need something special to happen, and that’s one big swing, whatever it might be.”
The big swings Thursday came from Joey Gallo. His two long home runs buried the Tigers, who have won one game in their last 21 against AL West foes and two of their last 22 games at home.
Gallo’s first blast came off Turnbull, who threw 45 pitches but was lifted after two innings with shoulder fatigue after his fastball velocity dipped in the second inning to the high-80s from his usual 93-95 mph.
Catcher Bobby Wilson saw the scoreboard radar gun registering under 90 mph on fastballs — pitches that Gardenhire thought were sliders at first because of the readings.
“Something was not right,” Wilson said. “In the heat of the moment, I don’t really pay attention that close. But on that one, I kind of noticed and got through that inning.
“And the strikeout to (Rougned) Odor was like an 87-mph pitch, too. That’s when I came in and told Gardy that something was wrong.”
Gardenhire said Turnbull did not have any pain and an MRI revealed no structural damage. Gardenhire said the team, already in need of a starter for Saturday’s game against Washington, will decide the next course of action on Friday.
The ugly present will be magnified by the Nationals, who will throw Sanchez on Friday and Scherzer, a two-time Cy Young winner since leaving Detroit as a free agent after the 2014 season, on Sunday.
Those reminders, along with the weekend reunion of the franchise’s last championship club, will both hide and highlight the punchless present of a painful rebuild.
Gallo, for instance, is the type of power hitter the Tigers need in the system.
The 39th pick in 2012 first round, Gallo pounded his way through the minors and is the latest slugger for a franchise that used to go blow for blow with the once-powerful Tigers in the playoffs.
His first blast went 408 feet — nearly to the Pepsi Porch in right field — in the second inning and the second was 422 feet to left center over the Texas bullpen in the fourth.
The Tigers scratched nine hits, led by Harold Castro’s first three-hit game, but did not score in seven innings off Rangers starter Ariel Jurado, his longest outing of the season and first scoreless start in eight tries.
“He sinked it pretty good, he’s got some good runs on his ball,” said Gordon Beckham, who had two hits. “It’s not always going to work out, we’re going to grind through some. The All-Star break is coming up and a lot can happen in the second half of the season, so we just have to keep showing up and staying present.”
Miguel Cabrera drove in a run with a sacrifice fly in the eighth inning, and the Tigers put two runners on base in the ninth before Shawn Kelley struck out pinch-hitter Niko Goodrum to end it.
Turnbull, 26, is the latest young arm befallen by shoulder trouble, joining injured minor leaguers Casey Mize of Double-A Erie and Franklin Perez of High-A Lakeland as prized arms the organization hopes can spearhead a new era of winning baseball.
After Turnbull departed, the bullpen also provided some positives. Nick Ramirez, Buck Farmer, Blaine Hardy, Joe Jimenez and Jose Cisnero gave up two runs in seven innings and finished with 10 of Detroit’s 13 strikeouts.
Jimenez and Cisnero set the final six Rangers down in order in the eighth and ninth innings, respectively, with Jimenez striking out all three batters he faced in the eighth.
“That was a power arm against some very good hitters over there,” Gardenhire said of Jimenez. “They were great. They all came in there and did a really nice job of keeping the ball game exactly where it was. It was fantastic.
“We needed it. They gave us a chance.”
There will be more chances, starting this weekend as fans get their own chance to remember better days.
Matt Schoch is a freelance writer.