Spencer Turnbull pitched the fifth no-hitter in the majors already this season, sending the Detroit Tigers to a 5-0 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday night.
Turnbull, who led the big leagues in losses when he went 3-17 two years ago, had never gone more than seven innings in any of his previous 49 starts over three seasons. But a fastball in the mid-90s (mph) and a biting slider kept Seattle batters guessing and added to a growing list of mound gems in 2021.
The five no-hitters through May 18 match the 1917 season for the most in baseball history by that date. Two have been thrown in Seattle by opposing pitchers this month.
Turnbull’s no-no was the eighth in Tigers history and their first since Justin Verlander’s in Toronto on May 7, 2011.
“He was pretty relentless,” Detroit manager A.J. Hinch said. “I’m really proud of him. He’s worked really hard and deserves every bit of tonight.”
The 28-year-old right-hander got a great defensive play from third baseman Jeimer Candelario in the seventh inning and then struck out Mitch Haniger in the ninth to end it.
Turnbull (3-2) struck out nine and walked two. He issued a free pass to Jose Marmolejos leading off the ninth when a full-count curveball missed wide, just the second baserunner for Seattle. Turnbull struck out Sam Haggerty for the first out and got Jarred Kelenic to ground into a fielder’s choice for the second out.
Haniger, who came closest to a hit for the Mariners earlier in the game, went down swinging on a 95 mph fastball for the final out. Turnbull screamed in joy and was engulfed in a hug from catcher Eric Haase before being overrun by teammates.
“He delivered some pretty good 3-2 breaking balls,” Hinch said. “He kept kind of answering the challenge.”
Turnbull didn’t make his season debut until April 21 because he contracted COVID-19 and missed a couple of weeks. But he joined a no-hitter list for 2021 that already included San Diego right-hander Joe Musgrove at Texas on April 9, Chicago White Sox left-hander Carlos Rodon against Cleveland on April 14, Baltimore’s John Means in Seattle on May 5 and Cincinnati lefty Wade Miley against Cleveland on May 7.
In addition, Arizona left-hander Madison Bumgarner pitched seven hitless innings in a complete game during a doubleheader against Atlanta on April 25, but that is not recognized as an official no-hitter by Major League Baseball because the game did not go at least nine innings – it was shortened under pandemic rules in effect for a second straight season.
Turnbull threw a career-high 117 pitches, 77 for strikes. Haniger was the only batter to hit the ball hard enough to threaten a base hit.
“You could tell he was in command of things,” Hinch said about Turnbull. “He was generating soft contact on the ground.”
Like seemingly every no-hitter, there was at least one great defensive play and Turnbull’s was no different. Haniger sent a drive to the wall in center field in the fourth inning that Akil Baddoo pulled in, but it was his shot in the seventh that appeared destined for a hit.
Haniger lined a fastball at 108 mph off the bat down the third baseline. Candelario made a terrific sprawling stop of the one-hopper and a strong throw to first to get Haniger.
Seattle joined Cleveland in being no-hit twice already this season. It was nearly three times for the Mariners after Cleveland’s Zach Plesac took a no-no into the eighth inning against the Mariners last week before it was broken up.