After the first inning went 1-2-3 Tuesday night at T-ball Park, Spencer Turnbull recalled his Detroit Tigers teammates saying, hey, you should throw a no-hitter tonight.
Said Turnbull, peering out post-game from the remnants of a shaving-cream pie facial, said, “I was like, all right.”
Since the opponent was the Seattle Mariners, it wasn’t as if his teammates were demanding nuclear fission out of him. Just throw strikes and let nature take its course.
For the second time in two weeks, it happened.
The Mariners were the unbearable lightness of baseball. No hits, no runs, no good explanations. A unanimity of futility. Again.
This time, it was worse.
Turnbull now has a career record of 10-25. In 2019, his record was 3-17. At least on May 5, John Means was the ace of the Baltimore Orioles staff when he no-hit the Mariners. Turnbull, 28, was about a week away from putting on his red Home Depot apron and helping me choose a light fixture I don’t like after I see it up on the back bar in the basement.
But on this cool spring night in a 5-0 victory (box), he was Nolan Ryan.
Or the Mariners were the Bad News Bears.
“Quite frankly, we have to be better than that,” said manager Scott Servais. “There’s no other way to put it.”
True, there is no other way to put it. But he’ll have to keep putting it that way. Because there’s no reason to think they’re done.
The Mariners are the 19th team in MLB history to have been no-hit twice in a single season. And it’s only May 19. They have another 4½ months to stay clear of the distinction of being the first team to be no-hit three times.
With a team batting average of .199 — they had three hits Monday night in a 4-1 loss to the 16-26 Tigers — history is easily within their feeble grasp.
The tension already is palpable.
“I know we have a young team and some of this is growing pains,” Servais said. “But you know, there’s a competitiveness that has to take over in ballgames like that, and make adjustments.
“We’re just not getting it done.”
The only baserunners were two walks, to Jarred Kelenic and Jose Marmolejos. There was only one ball struck hard, a sixth-inning one-hopper at 108 mph from Mitch Haniger that Tigers 3B Jeimar Candelario backhanded brilliantly and scrambled to his feet for the throw to first.
Turnbull delivered 24 first-pitch strikes to the 29 Mariners he faced, striking out nine, with a career-high 117 pitches after never having gone more than seven innings in 49 career starts.
Yes, the Mariners are part of a national trend of offensive collapse. The five no-hitters through May 18 match the 1917 season for the most in baseball history by that date. The single-season record is seven, done several times.
Bu the Mariners are the first team since the 2015 Dodgers to get zeroed out twice in a month.
Haniger said it’s no help that the Mariners are trendsetters.
Pitching dominance “is a common trend that’s been occurring over the last couple years, maybe even last 10 years,” he said. “But I feel like the way these teams are scouting and drafting guys and grooming them, they’re gonna sacrifice a little bit on command.
“They’re OK with walks, or they want strikeouts. You kind of create that type of game. But hitters are good too. We need to make adjustments and and start getting better.”
Mariners hitters adjusted well three games ago when they beat reigning Cy Young Award winner Shane Bieber in taking three of four from a good Cleveland Indians team. But consistency in the major leagues is the game’s most difficult aspect.
“It’s not a good feeling to be no-hit, ever,” Haniger said. “Hopefully this is the last time we feel it this season. It happens, but obviously, nobody’s OK with it. Nobody’s in here laughing. It doesn’t feel good.”
Speaking of not feeling good, that’s how Turnbull described himself pre-game. But by the ninth, he felt like Superman, blowing three strikes by Haniger to finish the game and commence the hug-fest, a budding opponent tradition at T-ball.
“Once I got to (the ninth), I was like, ‘All right, I’m going to be nervous,'” he said. “‘This is crazy, but I’m gonna go out there and keep doing the same thing.’
“The whole night I was like, ‘I’m not going to be afraid to make any pitches. I’m not going to second guess or doubt or have any fear about anything.'”
It’s the Mariners’ turn to do the second guessing.
Said Servais: “I certainly did not expect to see that again.”
Now, after a 1-2-3 first inning by an opponent pitcher, we know the first thought of Mariners hitters.