Detroit Tigers: Spencer Turnbull magical in Seattle

May 18, 2021; Seattle, Washington, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Spencer Turnbull (56) celebrates with catcher Eric Haase (13) after throwing a no-hitter against the Seattle Mariners at T-Mobile Park. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
May 18, 2021; Seattle, Washington, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Spencer Turnbull (56) celebrates with catcher Eric Haase (13) after throwing a no-hitter against the Seattle Mariners at T-Mobile Park. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports /
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That’s what baseball does. You just never know when lightning will strike. For a team mostly going nowhere, smack in the middle of an era where the organization has had little to celebrate…a pitcher like Spencer Turnbull, with a 9-25 career record, decided to give the Detroit Tigers that shining moment where it all came together to make baseball magical again.

The Detroit Tigers 8th no-hitter was special

Turnbull threw the 5th official no-hitter in MLB this season and the 8th no-hit game in Tigers franchise history. It was a memorable and stunning moment from a pitcher who had shown the tantalizing stuff of an Ace at times but never the efficiency and longevity of a pitcher capable of finishing off a gem of this magnitude.

Turnbull was dominant all night throwing first-pitch strikes to 24 of the 29 batters he faced. By shoving 19 swinging strikes at the M’s, Turnbull struck out nine versus only two walks. He gave the Mariners’ offense no oxygen with excellent command of his slider and cutter. A Game Score of 94 shows the excellence Turnbull achieved on the night.

As with most no-hitters, there was a significant defensive play to keep the magic alive. Jeimer Candelario speared a 108.4 mph hot shot by M’s slugger Mitch Haniger as he sprawled to his right in the 7th inning. The ball was scorched and had a .660 hit expectation attached to it. It was a superlative play and it’s likely Turnbull will pick up the check for Candelario for a while.

When Turnbull took the mound in the 9th inning he was beyond uncharted territory. Never mind the fact he’d only recovered from a case of COVID-19 in the last two months, he had never thrown a pitch beyond the 7th inning much less the 8th inning in his major league career. To take the ball through those final two innings and battle the associated nerves that go along with the moment was a testament to his skill level and the guts he had to get it done.

Turnbull was working with a 5-0 lead at the end as the Tigers offense did an excellent job of tacking on runs late to give Tigers manager AJ Hinch plenty of extra rope to let Turnbull forge his way to the history books.

For the Mariners, it was the second time this season they’ve suffered the no-hit humiliation after Baltimore’s John Means got them last week. During Turnbull’s masterpiece on Tuesday night the M’s collective team batting average fell below the Mendoza Line to .198. They are definitely a team with a target on their back for starting pitchers to take aim at history against despite the .500-ish record.

Turnbull walked the lead off man in the 9th and looked slightly wobbly for a few pitches but he rebounded beautifully to strike out Sam Haggerty with a wicked cutter on strike three. Turnbull then jammed young phenom Jerred Kelenic for out number two.

This brought up Haniger stepping back in as the last hurdle. Haniger had just smashed one to Candelario earlier. Turnbull didn’t flinch. He went country hardball on Haniger and dusted him on three pitches, the last two overwhelming heaters to finish with a grand flourish.

Tigers catcher Eric Haase making just his 13th start behind the plate in his major league career was Turnbull’s guide on the night. Turnbull was quick to credit Haase’s work in post-game interviews.

It’s a big moment in Spencer Turnbull’s life. He joins a small club in Tigers team history as the 6th man to toss a no-hitter with Justin Verlander (2), Virgil Trucks (2), Jack Morris, Jim Bunning, and George Mullin.

The question now is will this be a catapult to a new career trajectory for Turnbull. Few have questioned the arm talent and the wicked stuff Turnbull can unleash at any time. But he was also quite capable of having thrown 91 pitches and not getting out of the 4th inning. Is he ready to take a leap to a level he’s only scratched at previously?

What he’s shown this season prior to tonight has been impressive and a sign of growth. But he took it to the ultimate level in Seattle. He dominated a weak lineup the way a top gun should mow down an anemic offense. Turnbull overpowered them and kept a foot on their collective necks all night.

Jake Rogers and Eric Haase need to stay. dark. Next

It was a phenomenal moment and grand fun to watch in a season that has already dreadful stretches of anemic play by the Tigers and promises to probably yield far more losses over time than wins. But the magic was there for one night. That would incredible feeling as you watch the artist put the final few brush strikes on his masterpiece. That’s what it was like watching Turnbull take his permanent spot in Tigers history on this night.