Detroit Tigers observations: Spencer Turnbull rusty in 8-5 loss

Anthony Fenech
Detroit Free Press

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Detroit Tigers came out of the All-Star break the same way they went into it: with a loss.

In the first game of the second half Friday night, rookie right-hander Spencer Turnbull returned from the 10-day injured list and was rusty over three innings and the Tigers hit enough, but not enough to win.

The bullpen could not keep a tie game late – lefty Blaine Hardy allowed two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning – and the Tigers (28-58) lost to the Royals, 8-5, at Kauffman Stadium.

Turnbull allowed five runs – four earned – on four hits and three walks. After manager Ron Gardenhire lamented pregame that “all walks turn into runs,” all three of Turnbull’s free passes came around to score.

John Hicks hands the ball to Spencer Turnbull after a run scored during the first inning against the Royals at Kauffman Stadium.

In his first start since June 27 – Turnbull has been on the IL with right shoulder fatigue since the following day – he looked fine, physically, with his fastball velocity sitting in the low-90 mph range and occasionally touching the mid-90s. Turnbull’s breaking balls, however, weren’t there, and Kansas City took advantage.

Rookie lefty Gregory Soto pitched three scoreless innings of relief, leaving with the game tied after Victor Reyes’ third hit of the game in the top of the sixth made it 5-5.

But Hardy allowed a solo home run to Martin Maldonado, then a double to Whit Merrifield, before striking out Adalberto Mondesi swinging. But Mondesi swung at a spiked curveball, which bounced past John Hicks for a wild pitch and another run.

Reyes had three hits, upping his small sample size average to .300 on the season. Nicholas Castellanos hit an RBI double in the first inning and Miguel Cabrera hit an RBI single in the third.

Here are three observations from the Tigers’ loss:

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Turnbull’s night

Spencer Turnbull throws in the first inning Friday.

His arm looked fine, but clearly, there was going to be some rust to shake off – the rookie had only thrown bullpen sessions in the time between. The Royals (31-61) scored in each of the first three innings. He was pitching without sharp breaking balls and was unable to dance out of damage without it. The big blow came in the third, when Jorge Soler hit an RBI double, followed by a two-run home run to left field by Cheslor Cuthbert. Turnbull struck out one batter. He threw 56 pitches.

Soto in relief

Internally, the Tigers are leaning toward pitching Soto out of the bullpen full time. Right now, however, he can fill multiple roles as a long reliever and occasional starter. On Friday, the lefty showed the best version of himself, using a lively fastball to mow through the Kansas City batting order. Soto was hit by a comebacker facing his first batter of the night, and he shook that off quickly. Soto struck out three batters and walked none. He was great, and gave the Tigers a chance to win the game.

The offense

Victor Reyes calls time after his RBI double.

Reyes had three hits, and led off the game by walking against lefty Danny Duffy, then came around to score. None of his three hits were ripped, but they count all the same. In center field, Reyes made a pair of nice plays, ranging to the warning track. He is hitting 9-for-30 this season with the Tigers. … Christin Stewart had two hits but remains a liability in left field. Opponents are running on him with ease, even advancing first-to-third on balls hit to left. Stewart has hung in there, this season. Both hits were ripped. He’s hitting .237.

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Contact Anthony Fenech at Follow him on Twitter @anthonyfenech. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.