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The start after a no-hitter wasn't easy.
Spencer Turnbull's body didn't feel completely fresh, considering he tossed 117 pitches in his last outing. He dealt with some "mental things" — surrounding his recent historical accomplishment — that were "hard to keep out" of his head.
But Turnbull took the mound for the Detroit Tigers on Monday night at Comerica Park. His life has changed in the past week: He "picked up more followers on Instagram" and added bit of confidence.
Facing Cleveland, Turnbull delivered a quality start in his team's 6-5 loss in the series opener. He allowed three runs through six innings, with all seven of the hits against him singles, and a few of them would have been outs if he had a better defense. For a pitcher with frontline starter aspirations, the results were a mixed bag.
"He was OK," Tigers manager AJ Hinch said. "We didn't do a very good job of controlling the first hitter of the inning. We were in duress pretty much the whole game."
Said Turnbull: "I don't feel like I pitched bad. I think I made some good pitches tonight."
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Here are three ways of looking at Turnbull's start.
In five of his six innings, Turnbull allowed the first batter to reach safely.
He drilled Cesar Hernandez in the foot in the first. Eddie Rosario singled — the first hit off Turnbull since May 13 — in the second. Owen Miller logged his first-career hit in the third. Jake Bauers and Ahmed Rosario singled in the fifth and sixth, respectively.
The three consecutive singles in the third inning were nearly outs, considering the exit velocities and expected batting averages: Miller (79.7 mph, .070 xBA), Bauers (65.7 mph, .380 xBA) and Rene Rivera (79.4 mph, .060 xBA). Shortstop Niko Goodrum and center fielder Victor Reyes had fielding troubles but weren't charged with errors.
"I made good pitches," Turnbull said. "They didn't hit them hard. Just got some fortunate breaks on their side. That's baseball. Last week, everything was hit at guys. This week, had some that fell in and costs some runs."
Cleveland scored two runs in the third inning to tie the game. Following Rivera's RBI single, Hernandez grounded into a force out to drive in his team's second run.
Turnbull picked up double plays in the first, second and fifth innings after putting a runner on base. He got eight ground-ball outs and two fly-ball outs, striking out three batters. He only had five swings and misses.
"The double plays helped a lot," Turnbull said. "I was trying to make good pitches, trusting my stuff and staying locked in."
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Turnbull fired 53 of his 86 pitches for strikes. He threw eight pitches in the first inning, four in the second, 28 in the third, 15 in the fourth, nine in the fifth and 22 in the sixth.
Cleveland tied the score in the sixth inning when Harold Ramirez lined a pitch back at Turnbull. The ball deflected off his glove and ended up as an RBI infield single. (He allowed two runners, including Ramirez, to steal second base in the sixth.)
"I would have felt a lot better if I could have kept that third run off the board," Turnbull said. "Coming out with the lead, I would've been really happy tonight. Once that third run scored, I was pretty frustrated. I feel like I probably could've prevented that."
But Turnbull has thrown six or more innings in three consecutive starts, which is a good sign for his development. Despite not having his best stuff, Turnbull's grit is crucial to him playing a bigger role within the starting rotation.
"I feel like I battled really well," Turnbull said.
'He's turning the corner'
As Turnbull walked off the mound in the sixth, he yelled into his glove. He does this often, but not normally after throwing six innings of three-run ball. He was pleased with the way he pitched around trouble and kept his composure. But there was a feeling of disappointment.
Entering this season, Turnbull raised the bar and expects more from his performances.
The Tigers also need him to step up because the organization knows how good he can become. He displayed his potential when he dealt his no-hitter. It was the first time he felt completely locked in on the mound.
"That's the other thing," Turnbull said. "I just have higher expectations for myself now. That probably plays into some of the frustration. Six innings, three runs is not that bad, but I feel like I put myself in a position to finish better than I did. It's just frustrating."
Hinch is seeing him evolve into a better pitcher. Through seven starts, Turnbull has a 3.12 ERA, 1.017 WHIP, nine walks and 34 strikeouts across 40⅓ innings.
"I think Spencer is a good pitcher," Hinch said. "I think he's turning the corner, and he expects to turn the page whenever some bad luck or bad things happen. ... He's able to collect himself, from what I've seen. I wasn't here for the Spencer of old that had trouble with that. All I've seen from him this year is competitive pitches after competitive pitches."
What happened at the end?
The Tigers loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning. Trailing by one run, Cleveland closer Emmanuel Clase walked Robbie Grossman, allowed a single to Jonathan Schoop and intentionally walked Akil Baddoo, who pinch-ran for Miguel Cabrera in the eighth inning.
Eric Haase lined a 101 mph cutter in a 2-1 count to right field. The ball had a .480 expected batting average, meaning there was a good chance it would drop in for a walk-off single.
Cleveland right fielder Jordan Luplow, who entered as a defensive replacement in the eighth inning, had other plans. He charged Haase's liner and made a head-first diving catch to end the game — stranding the bases loaded.
"I thought it was down," Hinch said. "I immediately looked to see where Schoop was. He was going on contact with two outs. I wasn't sure if Luplow was going to play that on a hop or dive. When I picked the ball back up, he had dove and we were done."
The Tigers went 3-for-13 with runners in scoring position and left nine players on base.
Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Analyzing Detroit Tigers' Spencer Turnbull's 1st start after no-hitter