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Indians 4, Tigers 0: Spencer Turnbull shaky, Tigers bats cold

The Tribe took the rubber match of the three game series to regain the AL Central lead.

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Detroit Tigers Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The battle for first place in the American League Central Division continued on Thursday afternoon, with the Detroit Tigers hosting the Cleveland Indians in the rubber match of a three-game series.

Spencer Turnbull took to the mound for his third start of the season, after solid outings in the redheaded rookie’s first two appearances. Entering the game, he had pitched eleven innings, allowing six runs — five of them earned — on ten hits and four walks for a 4.09 ERA. He also struck out fifteen batters and managed a respectable 1.273 WHIP, while only allowing a single home run prior to the match.

JaCoby Jones also returned to the lineup after a stint on the Injured List and a rehab assignment in the minors. He was added to the 25-man roster early Thursday morning after going 2-5 with a triple, an RBI and a strikeout in his lone tune-up game with the Toledo Mud Hens the night prior. The team wasted no time getting his glove back onto the field, slating him for the start in center field and batting ninth in the order.

And now on to the the game summary...

Turnbull started the game off by striking out Leonys Martín, who has been tormenting his former team throughout the series. He also struck out the next batter on a ridiculously sick sinker, then allowed a single and stolen base to Jake Bauers, who was then brought home on a single by Carlos Santana. Turnbull would punch out Hanley Ramirez with an 83 mph curveball to end the threat.

The Tigers followed up the bottom of the inning with a nothing-burger of a one-two-three inning against Shane Bieber, with Josh Harrison lining out to center field, Jeimer Candelario striking out, and Miguel Cabrera popping out the first baseman in foul territory.

Turnbull allowed a couple of baserunners in the top of the second, with a potential double-play missed by the middle infielders, only to end the inning with a fly ball and strikeout. Niko Goodrum began the bottom of the frame with a full-count walk, followed by a stolen base. Dustin Peterson struck out, then Goodrum advanced to third base on a wild pitch, only to be stranded after a strikeout by John Hicks and a groundout by Grayson Greiner.

Martín would get the better of the Bull leading off the third inning with a homer on a 3-1 fastball down the heart of the plate; the dinger was only the second surrendered by Spencer this season. Turnbull bounced back to retire the next two Tribe batters, only to serve up another single to Santana. It was an amazing Superman impression play by Peterson at the left field warning track off the bat of Ramirez that saved Turnbull from incurring any further damage. The Tigers would go down in order in the bottom frame.

Turnbull started the top of the fourth with a one-pitch out to the leadoff batter Tyler Naquin, only to surrender singles to Kevin Plawecki and Brad Miller, and then offer a free pass to Eric Stamets to load the bases. Martín would continue to torment the Tigers with an RBI single to right field that saw Brad Miller get mowed down at home plate by Goodrum. The inning would end on a long fly ball to right field after a stolen base by Martín, with Turnbull once again escaping any further damage. The Tigers would go down in the bottom of the fourth with without causing any damage despite a solid single by Goodrum, including strikeouts by Cabrera and Peterson.

Blaine Hardy relieved Turnbull to start the top of the fifth, who allowed three runs on eight hits, one base-on-balls, and struck out four over 91 pitches — 54 for strikes. Hardy managed an unremarkable inning, other than a one-out walk to Santana. The bottom of the fifth saw Greiner and Jordy Mercer reach on singles, only to be stranded on the basepaths by the following two batters.

Hardy sent the Indians down in order in the top of the sixth inning, with a strikeout of Stamets to seal the deal. The Tigers would follow suit in the bottom frame, with Goodrum reaching on an error, but the boys in the Olde English D threatened no further.

Drew VerHagen entered the game to start the seventh inning, only to give up a run on a double, a walk and a single, but managed to avoid catastrophic damage by striking out Ramirez, then getting his bacon saved on a throw by Greiner to get Bauers trying to steal third base. The Detroit squad went down with hardly a whimper in the bottom half, with Hicks, Greiner and Mercer all going down in a row.

Reed Garrett replaced VerHagen to begin the eighth inning, issuing a walk to the leadoff batter Naquin, followed by a one-out ground-rule double to Miller to put runners on second and third. He bounced back for a three-pitch swinging strikeout of Stamets on a 95 mph heater. Garrett then walked Martín with two outs to load the bases, followed by a strike out of Jose Ramirez on a slider to end the threat unscathed.

Cleveland’s starting pitcher Bieber was relieved by Adam Cimber heading into the bottom of the eighth, who quickly sent the Tigers down on six pitches. Victor Alcántara was brought into the top of the ninth to try and keep the game close, and obliged by retiring the side after a one-out walk that was erased by a subsequent 4-6-3 double play.

The Tigers failed to crack the goose egg on the scoreboard in the bottom of the inning, with Cabrera striking out looking on three pitches, and Goodrum and Peterson putting the ball in the air weakly to end the game.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the game

Good: The Tigers’ outfield defense. All three outfielders made great plays to keep the game close, and Peterson’s diving play was one for the highlight reel.

Bad: The Detroit Tigers’ offense... again. They did not get timely hits, did not manufacture any runs, and continue to display an absolute power outage with the bats — you cannot win a game if you can not plate at least one run.

Ugly: Kent Hrbek joining the gang on a Skype call. Why are they still trying to make Skype calls happen? It’s a miserable medium for a high-quality television broadcast, and the audio sounds like they’re interviewing a semi-sentient robot. And seriously, Hrbek is not someone I recall fondly as a Tigers fan, so my interest was completely lost during that segment.

Performance of the Game: In lieu of any remarkable performances on the field by the Tigers other than the outfield plays, this distinction goes to the broadcast team. Brandon Inge was surprisingly entertaining, with a good verbal delivery that made him easy to listen to. Additionally, there was better chemistry among the “players only” crew this time around, which may bode well for future broadcasts.