04 Oct

these are the moments

The regular season is a wrap. Before the second season starts, here’s a tip of the cap to the best moments of 2021 by a Mississippian in the majors:
Best hit: Tim Anderson’s walk-off home run in the inaugural Field of Dreams Game on Aug. 12. The former East Central Community College star’s blast into the Iowa cornfield will endure as one of the great moments in this or any season.
Best pitch: Spencer Turnbull’s final fastball to Mitch Hanigar, which produced a swing and a miss and completed the Madison Central High product’s no-hitter on May 18. The no-no was the first ever in MLB by a Mississippian (native or school alum).
Best throw: Hunter Renfroe’s laser from deep center field to nail a runner at third base for the final out in a 2-1 Boston win on Sept. 8. It was the second assist of the game for the former Mississippi State star, who also homered to put the Red Sox ahead.
Best debut: Nick Fortes, who singled in his first career at-bat on Sept. 18, hit a home run in his second AB later in that game. The ex-Ole Miss standout was one of six Mississippians who debuted in 2021. Worth noting: George County High alum Justin Steele struck out the first batter he faced, and Delta State alum Trent Giambrone got a pinch-hit single in his first at-bat.

21 Jul

ecstasy to agony

Tough break for former Madison Central High star Spencer Turnbull, who’ll miss the rest of this season and a big chunk of 2022 because of Tommy John surgery. Turnbull threw a no-hitter in late May, the first ever by a Mississippi high school or college alum, and was having a strong year (4-2, 2.88 ERA) with a bad Detroit team when he went on the injured list June 5 with a sore arm. He was shifted to the 60-day IL on July 7, and the announcement about the arm surgery came Tuesday. Turnbull, 28, was a second-round pick by the Tigers in 2014 out of Alabama. He debuted in the big leagues in 2018 and has an 11-25, 4.25 career ledger.

19 May

a little history

To a list that includes Hall of Famers Jim Bunning and Jack Morris and future HOFer Justin Verlander, add Spencer Turnbull. The former Madison Central High star threw a no-hitter for Detroit against Seattle on Tuesday night, joining those legends as Tigers pitchers to pull off the feat. As for the list of Mississippi products (native, prep or college alums), well, Turnbull is it. Natives Guy Bush, Claude Passeau, Boo Ferriss, the great old-timers, never threw one. Neither did recent college products Cliff Lee, Jeff Fassero or Pat Rapp. Weir’s Roy Oswalt threw the first inning of a six-man no-hitter in 2013 and Mississippi State alum Jonathan Papelbon worked the last inning of a four-man no-no in 2014. But those fall into a different category. Considering the rate of no-no’s this season – Turnbull’s is the fifth – it wouldn’t be a shock to see Brandon Woodruff or Lance Lynn toss one, but for now, Turnbull stands alone. “I don’t really know how to think of it in a historical perspective,” Turnbull told reporters postgame. “Just for myself, obviously, it’s the greatest achievement in my life so far, or at least my baseball career.” Turnbull threw 117 pitches at the Mariners, allowed two walks and struck out nine. He capped the performance by fanning Mitch Hanigar on three pitches, the last a 95 mph fastball that Haniger swung through. “You’re getting my best three pitches right here,” Turnbull said of his approach against the final batter. Drafted out of Alabama in 2014, Turnbull debuted in the majors in 2018 and is 10-25 with a 4.33 career ERA pitching for bad teams. He is 3-2, 2.88 this season for a 16-26 team. Contending clubs certainly will have noticed. P.S. Tigers catcher Eric Haase became the first rookie to catch a no-hitter since former Delta State star Eli Whiteside caught Jonathan Sanchez’s no-no for San Francisco in 2009. … Mitch Moreland, the ex-State standout from Amory, has gone on the injured list for Oakland with a rib injury. He is hitting .237 with four homers.

27 Apr

as the game turns

The score was tied in the fifth inning at Comerica Park on Monday when former McComb High star Jarrod Dyson came up to face ex-Madison Central star Spencer Turnbull. Kansas City’s No. 8 hitter, leading off the inning, slashed a double to left field against Detroit’s starting pitcher. A sac bunt and a sac fly later, the Royals led 3-2. That would be the final score as the Royals, completing a four-game sweep at Detroit, improved to 14-7, best record in the American League. The Tigers fell to 7-16, worst in the league. Dyson, 36, back in KC after several years elsewhere, is a role player for the Royals. He has just 13 at-bats, four hits, three runs and two steals. He has been used mainly as a defensive replacement; his speed plays in the outfield. Dyson is good at little things, which has been a key to the Royals’ good start. See the bunt and sac fly on Monday. “People call them little things, but they’re big things. They’re really important for teams that fight like our team fights,” manager Mike Matheny said in an mlb.com story. The Tigers, meanwhile, are mired in a major funk, having lost 10 of 11 as their offense sputters. Their only win in that span was on April 21 in Turnbull’s first start of 2021 coming off the COVID-19 list. The big right-hander, now in his fourth MLB season, pitched well enough to win Monday, allowing just five hits (one homer) and no walks while striking out five over six innings. Tigers broadcasters raved about his curveball. But the Tigers went 2-for-15 with runners in scoring position and left 11 on base. “Baseball’s cruel, and when you’re in these situations and these ruts, it feels like all these weird things happen,” manager A.J. Hinch said.

26 Aug

not happening

Home runs dominate the highlight shows. There are a lot of homers in the major leagues these days and Quick Pitch, MLB Tonight, SportsCenter and the like are all over ’em. The unwitting supporting actors in the long-ball clips are the pitchers who surrender the homers. You see them grimace, hang their head, kick the dirt — stuff like that — while a hitter trots around the bases and a broadcaster shouts at the top of his lungs. Only three regular starters – those with 25 or more innings – have avoided this indignity in 2020: Max Fried, Zack Greinke and Spencer Turnbull, the former Madison Central High star who pitches for Detroit. Turnbull threw 5 2/3 shutout innings on Tuesday night as the Tigers beat the Chicago Cubs 7-1 at Comerica Park. In so doing, Turnbull not only improved his record to 3-2 – he was 3-17 in 2019 – and trimmed his ERA to 2.97, the tall right-hander stretched his streak of innings without allowing a home run to over 50. To find the last one, you have to go back to Sept. 12, 2019, when the New York Yankees’ Aaron Judge took Turnbull deep. A FanGraphs analysis says Turnbull’s four-seam fastball can be one of the best in the game: “Some combination of spin, speed, and deception make it one of the hardest fastballs to make contact with, let alone square up.” Coming off a poor outing, Turnbull kept the Cubs in check by relaxing. “I focused a lot more on just slowing everything down mechanically, not trying to throw so hard,” he told the Detroit Free Press. “Less is more,” he added, is “gonna be my mantra for the rest of my life.” Keeping hitters in the yard and off the highlight clips fits right in with that.

19 Sep

consolation prize?

Spencer Turnbull did not get the gift of a win for his 27th birthday on Wednesday — but he didn’t get a loss, either. And that was significant. The Madison Central High product pitched five strong innings for Detroit against Cleveland, a playoff-contending team that had beaten Turnbull five times this season. Turnbull allowed just one run on six hits and struck out eight. It was a 1-1 game when he departed. The Tigers – the worst team in baseball – ultimately lost 2-1 in extra innings, their 17th loss to the Indians in 2019. For Turnbull, who has had a rough time of late (8.28 ERA over his last seven games), it was an encouraging effort. “He was a lot more confident on the mound tonight,” Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire told mlb.com. A win on his birthday would’ve been a nice reward. His last one came on May 31. He is 3-15 with a 4.66 ERA for a team that is 45-106 with a collective 5.23.

28 Aug

lost season

The drought continued for Spencer Turnbull on Tuesday night. The Madison Central High alum, a rookie right-hander for Detroit, took another loss as his Tigers fell to visiting Cleveland 10-1. Turnbull has gone 12 straight starts without a win, his last coming three months ago on May 31. His record at that time was 3-4, with a 2.84 ERA. His record now is 3-13, which, when you consider that his ERA is still a respectable 4.18, says a lot about how bad the Tigers are this year. In short: Really bad. Tuesday’s loss dropped Ron Gardenhire’s club to 39-90 overall and 17-44 at home, both worst in MLB. They’re 40 games behind first-place Minnesota in the American League Central. The second-place Indians beat the Tigers for the 13th time in 14 games this season. Turnbull did not pitch well: four runs, including a two-run first-inning homer by Jason Kipnis, in five innings. “I don’t feel like I missed by much, but they did real damage on a couple swings,” Turnbull said in an Associated Press story. His teammates barely put up a fight, mustering three hits. All Turnbull can do is turn the page and look forward to his next scheduled start on Sunday. Who does he get? The Twins.

15 May

pair of aces

And the National League leader in wins is – drumroll, please — former Wheeler High and Mississippi State star Brandon Woodruff, who notched his sixth on Tuesday. Not what anyone would have predicted for mid-May. The big right-hander threw six innings of one-hit ball as Milwaukee beat Philadelphia 6-1 in a matchup of two of the NL’s best clubs. Woodruff walked five but fanned five in winning his fourth straight start. “The fastball is really overpowering at times, it feels like,” Craig Counsell told mlb.com. “He’s using it well, he’s throwing his off-speed for strikes; it’s a good recipe for success.” Woodruff is 6-1 with a 3.72 ERA in nine starts this season, his third in the big leagues. He also got a hit in three at-bats Tuesday and is at .350 for the year. … Though he doesn’t have the win total to show for it, ex-Madison Central star Spencer Turnbull actually has pitched better than Woodruff to date. The Detroit Tigers rookie right-hander is 2-2 with a 2.42 ERA, fourth-best in the American League, in eight outings. Over his last five starts, Turnbull is 2-0 with a 1.21. He last pitched on Sunday vs. Minnesota, allowing two runs in 5 2/3 innings and departing with a lead. He got a no-decision after the sub-.500 Tigers’ bullpen blew the save. P.S. Miguel Sano, who was at Trustmark Park in Pearl last week on a rehab assignment with Double-A Pensacola, has been activated by the Twins. Accompanying Sano on the rehab assignment was Sam Perlozzo, a Twins senior advisor who managed the Jackson Mets to back-to-back Texas League championships in 1984-85.

01 May

effectively wild

Over his last 17 innings of work, Madison Central High product Spencer Turnbull has allowed one earned run and beaten the Boston Red Sox and the Philadelphia Phillies. He has also navigated some choppy waters. Detroit’s 26-year-old rookie right-hander has walked 12 batters over those 17 innings. On Tuesday against the Phillies, in a 3-1 win, he yielded just three hits and fanned five but walked two, hit two batters and threw three wild pitches. Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire, the old Jackson Mets shortstop, called it an “effectively wild” performance. “I’m just trying to get outs, and however I have to do that is what I’m going to do,” Turnbull told mlb.com. He yielded a first-inning run to the Phillies but put up five zeroes after that. For the season, he is 2-2 with a 2.53 ERA in six starts, seemingly solidifying his spot in the rotation. As Gardenhire said: “I like watching this kid pitch.”

22 Feb

it’s a good start

Spencer Turnbull, the former Madison Central High star, got the start in Detroit’s Grapefruit League opener today and got six quick outs against reigning NAIA national champ Southeastern University, 11-2 and averaging over 10 runs per game against its college competition. Turnbull yielded a hit to the game’s first batter, who was caught stealing, and retired the next five. Turnbull, 26, went 0-2 with a 6.06 ERA in four games as a rookie for the Tigers in 2018 and is competing for a starter’s job this spring. “I think he’d be best served, if he doesn’t make our rotation, to start in Triple-A,” Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said in an mlb.com story. “This kid’s going to be a good one.”