Fitting finale: Tigers close dreary year with another loss, finish 47-114

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Spencer Turnbull was handed the loss in Sunday's finale and finished the season with a 3-17 record.

Chicago — One of the worst seasons in the proud history of the Detroit Tigers came to a fittingly droll finish on Sunday.

The Chicago White Sox administered the Tigers’ 114th final loss, 5-3. Only the 2003 team had more losses in a season (119).

"It was a long season, a tough season," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Need to rest, need to take a step back and look at everything. Just relax a little bit and then we'll get back into the groove.

"But right now, just wind down and get my health back, all of it — broken brain — and go from there."

BOX SCORE: White Sox 5, Tigers 3

Still laughing to keep from crying. The volume of losses sting, but what seems to chafe Gardenhire the most are the major league record-tying 59 home losses, which came with the worst run-differential at home in history (minus-221). 

"The losses, our fans won't forget that because we didn't play very well at home in front of them," he said. "Those are the things we are really going to try to change. We need to take care of our home field.

"We're still going to be young and the fans who are really into the team, they understand. They see how young it is, how many rookies we have on the field, the injuries...but they want to see us be better. They want to win, they've always been winners here and we have to figure out how to get back on that path." 

Turnbull turnaround

As there were throughout the season, there were pockets of light in this dreary year — and rookie starter Spencer Turnbull was one of them.

He rode some heavy rapids this season, including a 13-start losing streak in which his ERA climbed from 3.01 to 4.45. But the waters smoothed out nicely for him at the end.

"I like how I finished but it's still tough to put together complete starts," Turnbull said. "It's frustrating. I can dominate for stretches but not continue to keep it consistent."

That's what happened Sunday in his 30th start. He allowed one hit and one unearned run through five innings, striking out seven. He had 13 swings-and-misses (six with his four-seam fastball and five with his slider) and 16 called strikes.

He was dominating. Then came the sixth.

He walked leadoff hitter Danny Mendick after a 10-pitch battle. Doubles by Jose Abreu and Eloy Jimenez followed, ending the day and the season for Turnbull.

Turnbull had hit Abreu in his first two at-bats and he was peeved that he let that impact the third at-bat.

"It shouldn't have," he said. "I'd like to have that one back because I think (the two hit-by-pitches) were in the back of my head a little bit. It took a little aggression away from me in that at-bat and it cost me."

His final line was typically Turnbullian, a little bit of everything — 5.1 innings, four runs, three earned runs, three hits, a walk, two hit batsmen and the seven strikeouts.

"It's a little frustrating," he said. "A lot to learn and a lot to take away into this offseason and try to build on it."

Turnbull ended up with 17 losses, but he also posted the second-most strikeouts by a Tigers rookie — 146, second to Les Cain's 156 in 1970. And he gave up three earned runs or less in each of his final three starts.

"He threw the ball really well," Gardenhire said. "That's the guy we started with. And next year we will start with that guy from beginning to the end."

Praise for Reyes

Victor Reyes beat out a bunt single in the sixth inning and was removed for a pinch-runner. Odd since Reyes is one of the fastest runners on the team.

But, as Gardenhire knew, that hit pushed his season average to .304.

"He hit .300," Gardenhire said. "I'm not going to let him have another at-bat and not hit .300. He earned it. I talked to him and I told him, if he gets a hit in one of his first two at-bats, I'm taking him out.

"I think that was important and I think he deserves it."

Reyes hit safely in 25 of his last 29 games, hitting .341 with nine doubles, two triples, two homers and 14 RBIs in that stretch. On the season, in 292 plate appearances, he had a wRC-plus (runs created) of 100 and a plus-4 in defensive runs saved.

Around the horn

Miguel Cabrera homered for the second straight game, taking lefty Ross Detwiler just over the fence in right field. It was his 12th of the year and 477th of his career.

He will go into 2020 tied with Adrian Beltre for 30th on the all-time home run chart. He will also go into 2020 with 2,815 hits, 185 short of 3,000.

... Veteran Jordy Mercer ended what is likely his one and only season with the Tigers with a single, double and RBI. Once the quad injury that cost him two-plus months healed, he hit .338 over the last 35 games, with nine doubles, five home runs and 16 RBIs. He also showed teams he could contribute at multiple positions, playing at second and first base in addition to his usual shortstop.

... Ronny Rodriguez hit his 14th home run of the season — a solo shot in the ninth. Brandon Dixon finishes as the team's home run leader with 15.

... Reliever John Schreiber, the right-hander from Wyandotte, struck out the side in the seventh. He posted 19 strikeouts in his 13-inning September audition, with just four walks. 

... The Tigers, with eight strikeouts Sunday, also broke the major league record for most strikeouts in a season — 1,595.

Twitter: @cmccosky