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Faulty mindset dooms Turnbull, Tigers as skid vs. Indians stretches to 19 games

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit – In the end, it may not have mattered, but Tigers' starter Spencer Turnbull wants a do-over.

"I wish I could go back and start over tonight," he said. "But it is what it is. I would've loved to give a better performance for the boys tonight." 

He might've had to be perfect, though, to beat Indians starter Shane Bieber. He was relentless. He struck out 11 and limited the Tigers to three hits over seven innings in the Indians' 3-1 win over the Tigers are Comerica Park Saturday. 

It stretches the Tigers' losing streak against the Indians to 19, the second longest to one team in the division era (since 1969). It was also the Tigers’ fourth straight loss since first baseman C.J. Cron went on the injured list Monday. It was announced before the game that he would undergo season-ending knee surgery — as if things weren’t bleak enough as the club tumbles back to .500 at 9-9.

Detroit Tigers pitcher Spencer Turnbull throws to a Cleveland Indians batter during the first inning of a baseball game in Detroit, Saturday, Aug. 15, 2020.

"It's part of baseball," Tigers second baseman Jonathan Schoop said afterward. "You just have to forget about it and come back fresh tomorrow and try to win a ballgame."

That will be tough to do for Turnbull. He needed 97 pitches (eight three-ball counts) and lasted just 4.2 innings. On the whole it was four walks and some sketchy command that done him in.

BOX SCORE: Indians 3, Tigers 1

"Part of the problem was I was thinking about mechanics too much," he said. "I let it get in my head. I didn't think my mentality was as good as it needed to be. I worked on some stuff mechanically between starts and I felt better, but I was thinking about it too much instead of being aggressive and working to get strike one."

That's ironic because the time the Indians swung at the first pitch in an at-bat, it was laced for a two-run double in the third inning.

Turnbull walked the Nos. 8-9 hitters to start the inning — Sandy Leon, who was hitting .081 and Oscar Mercado, who was hitting .119. Cesar Hernandez followed with a bunt single to load the bases.

"Really poor on my part," he said.

But it was the bunt that nearly unhinged him. 

"Yeah, felt like that pushed me over the edge more than the rest of it," Turnbull said. "I felt like I got there pretty quick, fielded it cleanly and I looked up and he was already standing on first base. What the heck.

"I know he's a good runner. I didn't know he was Usain Bolt out there."

At that point, Indians hitters had not offered at a single first pitch from Turnbull. Jose Ramirez, though, for whatever reason, jumped a first-pitch curveball and lined it over Cameron Maybin’s head in right field plating two runs.

"I didn't think he'd jump a curveball," Turnbull said. "I'd thrown like six all year. I think it was a terrible pitch, but I was just trying to get a quick strike."

Turnbull was still in the soup — runners at second and third and no outs. But he stopped the bleeding. He struck out Francisco Lindor and, after walking Carlos Santana to reload the bases, he got Franmill Reyes to hit into a 6-4-3 double-play ending the 33-pitch odyssey.

"That's definitely a positive to take away," he said. "It could've gotten out of hand in the third. I had some good defense behind me and I got out of it. But it's frustrating, though. If I was sharper, it could've been a different game."

In the fifth, he walked Ramirez and with two outs fell behind Carlos Santana 3-1. He got strike two with a 95-mph fastball, but Santana ripped the next one, another 95-mph heater into the left-center field gap, making it 3-0 and ending Turnbull’s night.

"Frustrated about that one, too, because I shook off (catcher Austin) Romine and I shouldn't have," Turnbull said. "I should've trusted him. I just didn't want to walk (Santana) again. Romine called for a slider and I went fastball.

"I got two past him and I thought I could get him with it."

Turnbull said it was another example of his faulty mindset on this night.

"If I was thinking more ahead, there was a base open and a walk there doesn't kill us," he said. "Maybe I had a better match-up with Reyes, who is a right-hander. I was thinking about the wrong things.

"I let a negative thought -- don't walk him -- get in my head instead of being aggressive and making my best pitch. I could've kept it to two."

Two runs would still have beat the Tigers' offense.

Shane Bieber throws against the Detroit Tigers in the first inning of a baseball game in Detroit, Saturday, Aug. 15, 2020.

Bieber was painting with his five-pitch mix, getting 23 swings-and-misses on 48 swings. He also got 16 called strikes. He got nine whiffs on 15 swings at his knuckle curve ball.

"All his pitches are plus-pitches and he commands them all," said Schoop, who had a double. "He throws strikes and then he has balls that look like strikes and end up outside the zone. He's really tough."

Bieber finished with 11 strikeouts, punching out nine of 10 batters between the second and the fifth — the streak broken up by a two-out walk in the third.

Bieber has 54 strikeouts in five games, the most of any starter over five games in club history. 

"I thought the Cincinnati Reds starting staff was second to none, but this guy was right in that category," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He was absolutely dominating. He's a heckuva pitcher and we knew that coming in."

Cleveland Indians third baseman Jose Ramirez tags out Detroit Tigers' Jonathan Schoop (8) at third base on a ball hit by Jeimer Candelario during the second inning of a baseball game in Detroit, Saturday, Aug. 15, 2020.

Still, the bullpen kept the Tigers within striking range.

Relievers John Schreiber (four straight outs) and Jose Cisnero put up zeros in the sixth and seventh. Schreiber has now worked 8.1 scoreless innings this season. Going back to Sept. 12 of last season, he hasn’t allowed a run in 13 of his last 14 outings.

Bryan Garcia put himself in a bases-loaded, no-out mess in the eighth. He walked to and made an errant throw to second base on what should have been a double-play comebacker. But he didn’t panic. He got Leon to foul out. He struck out Mercado and then center fielder Victor Reyes ran down a long fly ball to the warning track by Hernandez.

Rony Garcia then worked a clean ninth.

The Tigers did bring the tying run to the plate in the seventh and ninth innings. Cameron Maybin ended the seventh-inning rally with a 6-4-3 double-play against Bieber.

A walk and a catcher's interference error by Leon set the Tigers up in the ninth against Indians closer Brad Hand. After Candelario flew out to left, pinch-hitter JaCoby Jones laced a two-strike double into the corner in left, making it 3-1 and moving the tying runs into scoring position.

Maybin hit the first pitch right back to Hand, who flipped to first to end the game. 

Twitter @cmccosky