Detroit – On a chilly, 42-degree night, after losing 10 pounds and more than two weeks to the COVID-19 virus, Tigers right-hander Spencer Turnbull needed just one inning to shake off the rust in his 2021 debut.
Turnbull, who got put in COVID-19 protocol after his last spring training start on March 10, gave up a two-out, RBI double to Erik Gonzalez in the first inning of Game 2 Wednesday night.
Then he got busy.
Turnbull ended up breezing through five innings, allowing two hits and striking out six to help the Tigers earn a split of the double-header and snap a five-game losing skid with a 5-2 win over the Pirates.
Turnbull dispatched 13 of the last 14 hitters he faced. He started spotting his four-seam fastball (93-95 mph) better after the first, but his money pitch this night was his slider. He threw 21 of them, only three were put in play with an average exit velocity of 68.7 mph. He got six swings-and-misses on 12 swings with the slider.
He ended his night in style, too. He struck out Pirates lead-off hitter Adam Frazier on three pitches – a 94-mph fastball, 77-mph curve and 84-mph slider — ending a five-pitch fifth inning.
His longest rehab outing was 4.1 innings, so when he got to 62 pitches, his night was over.
The only question was, would the Tigers get him any offense. They’d managed three hits in a 3-2 loss in Game 1, and they weren’t exactly jumping all over Pirates right-hander Miguel Yajure early in the nightcap.
They didn’t get on the board until the third inning when Niko Goodrum ambushed a first-pitch fastball (90 mph) and sent it into the visitors’ bullpen in left-center field. It was his second homer of the year, his first batting left-handed, and the ball left his bat with an exit velocity of 105.7 mph.
Jonathan Schoop, who hadn’t had an extra-base hit all season, opened the fifth inning by pole-axing a change-up 403 feet into the left-field seats. The ball left his bat with an exit velocity of 106 mph.
Give manager AJ Hinch an assist on the third run. After Schoop’s homer, Yajure walked Goodrum in front of rookie Akil Baddoo, who was hitless in his last 15 at-bats. Hinch, wanting to take the guess work out of it for Baddoo, put on the hit-and-run play.
Baddoo responded by slapping a single to right-center, scoring Goodrum from first base.
Willi Castro, who had two hits in the nightcap, singled home Baddoo to cap the three-run fifth inning.
Harold Castro slapped in the fifth run in the sixth inning with a two-strike single to center. Wilson Ramos led off the inning with a double. Victor Reyes ran for him and scored on Harold Castro’s hit.
Right-hander Bryan Garcia worked the sixth inning and yielded a 419-foot home run to the first batter he faced, Phillip Evans. It was just the second homer Garcia has allowed in his young career.
Gregory Soto, dropping 98- and 99-mph sinkers, struck out two in a clean seventh to close it out.