Spencer Turnbull's return turns disastrous in 3rd inning of 12-2 Detroit Tigers loss
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — There are two ways of looking at the Detroit Tigers' first two games of the 2023 season: 1) It has only been two games, so maybe the on-field performance will improve naturally; 2) If nothing changes, the next 160 games will be frustrating for players, coaches and fans alike.
The Tigers lost, 12-2, to the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday in the second game of the season.
After an Opening Day shutout, the Tigers (0-2) snapped a 12-inning scoreless streak to start the season when Miguel Cabrera slapped an RBI single into right field with two outs in the fourth inning.
The Rays scored in the first inning on Randy Arozarena's double and added seven more runs in the third inning, taking an 8-0 lead. Spencer Turnbull, who spent the entire 2022 season rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, pitched in the big leagues for the first time in 666 days and didn't finish the third inning.
"I'm definitely pretty disappointed," Turnbull said. "Not exactly how I was hoping today would go, but I'm mostly disappointed because I didn't give us a chance to win. It's very frustrating. I'm just going to flush it and get ready for next week."
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The 30-year-old, scheduled to start the home opener Thursday at Comerica Park, allowed seven runs on eight hits and three walks with three strikeouts, throwing 38 of 63 pitches for strikes.
He escaped a bases-loaded jam in the first inning with a strikeout and an inning-ending double play.
"I was like, 'Dang, this could blow up in a hurry,'" Turnbull said. "I was able to work out of that, had a decent second inning, and in the third inning, crap hit the fan. You just can't have innings like that. You have to limit the damage, and I did not today. This loss is on me, but I'll make sure that doesn't happen again."
The Rays sent 13 batters to the plate in the third inning, doing their damage on mistakes from Tigers pitchers. Turnbull never felt comfortable throwing his swing-and-miss slider, and despite a few successful curveballs, he left some of them up in the strike zone for his opponents to crush.
"I saw some stuff on the video," Turnbull said. "I think I was landing a little too far open, which would make sense because the slider was backing up and I was missing arm side. I have to be conscious of that, but for the most part, it's just flush it. This was bad. Hopefully, it'll be a little different next week."
The inning started with Turnbull hitting Arozarena and continued with RBIs from Jose Siri (two-run double), Josh Lowe (two-run double), Francisco Mejia (single), Yandy Diaz (double) and Wander Franco (single).
The final run in the inning was charged to right-handed reliever Trey Wingenter, who recorded one out but couldn't wrap up the inning. He gave up two hits and one walk while hitting a batter.
"A little bit of the same," Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. "Those were some high pitch counts in the at-bats and not controlling the strike zone. More balls than strikes is not a great recipe for success. It looked like execution was a problem for both the guys at the beginning of the game."
Left-handed reliever Tyler Alexander cleaned up Wingenter's mess with the third out in the third. He allowed two runs on two hits with zero walks and seven strikeouts across 3⅓ innings, and threw 42 of 58 pitches for strikes.
"We needed to get to the back of the game," Hinch said. "We're going to need these guys to control the strike zone and get into counts a little bit better. When Tyler can get three-plus innings and bridge to the end of the game, it's certainly key for tomorrow especially."
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In the fourth, Taylor Walls singled to start the inning.
Alexander retired the next two batters and put Diaz in a two-strike count, but Diaz ripped a fifth-pitch cutter that didn't cut enough for a two-run home run to left field. The homer put the Rays ahead 10-1.
Right-hander Garrett Hill walked two batters and conceded two runs in the seventh inning on Franco's two-run double. The Rays finished with 12 runs on 13 hits and seven walks.
Righty José Cisnero delivered a scoreless eighth inning.
The Tigers scored their second and final run in the sixth inning on Austin Meadows' RBI single into center field. Doubles from Kerry Carpenter set up both Tigers runs, as he scored on Cabrera's single and Meadows' single.
Carpenter finished 2-for-4 with two strikeouts.
"The result for the team wasn't there, but it was cool because I had like 20 or 30 people, family and friends, coming from my hometown," Carpenter said. "It was a pretty special day even though it was a tough game."
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Rays right-hander Zach Eflin, who signed a three-year, $40 million contract in the offseason, allowed one run on three hits and one walk with five strikeouts in five innings. Righty reliever Kevin Kelly pitched two innings out of the bullpen but surrendered the second run.
Zach McKinstry, acquired by the Tigers from the Chicago Cubs in a trade before Opening Day, started for the first time and went 1-for-4 with a single in the ninth inning. The Tigers had six hits, two walks and 10 strikeouts.
On defense, Carpenter missed a few fly balls in right field and foul territory.
"I just wish I could have come down with some of them," Carpenter said.
Contact Evan Petzold at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Tigers toasted by Tampa Bay, 12-2, in Spencer Turnbull's return