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Tigers 2, Pirates 1: Turnbull cruises, timely hitting secures the sweep

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Two runs was all it took for Spencer Turnbull and the back end of the Tigers bullpen on Sunday.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

What do you get when you mix Spencer Turnbull on the mound, four total hits, and a league-worst opponent for the Detroit Tigers? A Sunday matinee win to secure a road series sweep. Tigers win, 2-1, and sweep the Pittsburgh Pirates.

While the Tigers scored 28 runs in their first two games against the Pirates this weekend, the Pirates bullpen quieted Detroit hitters down today. The Tigers only managed three hits through the first seven innings of today’s game. Pirates starter Steven Brault pitched two scoreless innings, allowing just one walk and striking out one after giving up four earned runs without recording an out on Friday night. Reliever Chris Stratton followed Brault’s performance up with three innings of work, allowing three hits, six strikeouts, and, most importantly, an RBI single to Tigers catcher Austin Romine.

From there, the Pirates went to Geoff Hartlieb, Nik Turley, and Richard Rodriguez, the only three Pirates pitchers to not allow a run to Detroit on Friday night. This strategy overall went very well for the Pirates, as the three combined for three innings of work and just one hit and one walk allowed. Fortunately for Detroit, Richard Rodriguez hit Jonathan Schoop, Schoop got to second base on a wild pitch, and Miguel Cabrera singled Schoop in to give Detroit a 2-1 lead. Rodriguez would hit a second batter, Victor Reyes, in the ninth inning, but avoided giving up an insurance run to Detroit by striking out Austin Romine.

Although this was undoubtedly a team win, with Detroit scrapping together their two runs with just four hits, the star of today’s game was Tigers starting pitcher Spencer Turnbull. Turnbull pitched seven innings for just the third time in his major league career, allowing one earned run on five hits and two walks while striking out four. Four strikeouts is a bit less than is usually expected from Turnbull, but it got the job done regardless.

Buck Farmer bounced back from his Friday night performance in which he allowed a run for the first time in 19 appearances (dating back to September 3, 2019) pitching a scoreless inning. Farmer pitched himself into a bit of a jam after getting the first two outs to start the inning, allowing a single to Josh Bell and walking Colin Moran. Farmer wiggled his way out of the jam just as quickly as he got into it, however, getting Bryan Reynolds to ground out on the first pitch of his at-bat. Joe Jimenez, meanwhile, was on his A-game. Jimenez got JT Riddle to line out on his first pitch of the day before striking out Erik Gonzalez and Jarrod Dyson to notch his fifth save of the season.

The Good

Spencer Turnbull pitched seven innings for the third time in his career and secured his second consecutive win. Joe Jimenez bounced back from a blown save on Friday night to notch his fifth save of the season, tying him with Yankees closer Zack Britton and Athletics closer Liam Hendriks for the major league lead. The Tigers swept a National League opponent on the road for the first time since August 23-25, 2013.

The Bad

Tigers hitters only managed four hits in today’s game, dropping both Niko Goodrum and C.J. Cron below a .200 batting average. Additionally, JaCoby Jones left this game with “left abdominal tightness” per Tigers PR and is day-to-day.

The Ugly

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The Tigers will be back in action tomorrow when they take on the Chicago White Sox at home. The next two weeks will tell a lot about this team as Detroit plays 13 games against the White Sox and the Cleveland Indians (as well as two make-up games about the Cardinals). Regardless of whether this team can compete within the AL Central, however, it’s becoming a bit more difficult to envision Detroit competing with the Pirates for the number one overall pick in next year’s MLB Draft following this series.