Remember a few days ago when temperatures were in the mid- to high-70s, the days were sun-drenched and the Mariners were accumulating hits and winning games — three in row, to be exact, vs. Cleveland — including a surprising defeat of reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Shane Bieber.
Yeah, nobody is going to remember that now.
After flirting with being no-hit multiple times on the road trip, and once to start this homestand, the Mariners’ seemingly once-every-three-days dance with hitting ignominy and offensive futility finally reached its expected nadir.
For the second time this season, Seattle was held hitless by an opposing pitcher.
Spencer Turnbull, a 28-year-old right-hander who has experienced minimal major-league success over parts of four seasons, pitched baseball’s fifth no-hitter of the season in a 5-0 Tigers victory Tuesday night at T-Mobile Park.
“This is just a dream come true,” said Turnbull, who took a shaving cream pie to the face and was doused with water and other liquids in the postgame celebration on the field. “This is probably the greatest day of my life.”
It was the eighth no-hitter in Tigers history, and Turnbull became the first Detroit pitcher to throw a no-hitter since Justin Verlander no-hit the Toronto Blue Jays on May 7, 2011.
“I certainly did not expect to see that again,” manager Scott Servais said quietly.
One might argue he should have seen it coming. The Dodgers’ Julio Urias nearly no-hit them twice, Boston’s Nick Pivetta carried a no-hitter through six innings, Cleveland’s Zach Plesac took a no-hitter into the eighth Thursday and lefty John Means actually no-hit them May 5.
“It’s not a good feeling to be no-hit ever,” Mariners outfielder Mitch 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.”
The Mariners join Cleveland as MLB teams to be no-hit twice this season. Seattle was also no-hit twice in the 2019 season. Seattle has been no-hit seven times in franchise history. Per Stats LLC, the Mariners are the second team in MLB history to get no-hit at home twice in a two-week span. The 1923 Philadelphia A’s were no-hit on Sept. 4 (by Sad Sam Jones) and Sept. 7 (Howard Ehmke).
“Getting no-hit, it’s pretty hard to put a positive spin on it, quite frankly,” Servais said.
And he shouldn’t.
There is nothing positive about this situation. Besides the reactionary embarrassment of being no-hit twice in one season, and that there is no legitimate reason to think it can’t happen again with the current roster, the Mariners’ offense is abysmal. They are hitting .199 this season, the worst in baseball. And somewhere Mario Mendoza, whose name was attached to that infamous .200 batting line of baseball demarcation, can nod knowingly. Cleveland and Brewers are the next lowest with .212 batting averages.
“Quite frankly, we have to be better than that,” Servais said. “There’s no other way to put it. Throwing a no-hitter in any league anywhere is a difficult feat. And you have to give a ton of credit to their pitcher for keeping it together and finishing it off. But I’m disappointed. Obviously, we’ve got to be better than that. We had some pitches to hit tonight, and we did not hit them.”
Haniger, the one Mariners hitter who had hit the ball with any authority off Turnbull all game, had one last chance to break it up with two outs in the ninth inning. But Turnbull threw an elevated, 95-mph fastball that Haniger foul-tipped into the glove of catcher Eric Haase.
“Once I got to that point,” Turnbull said of the ninth. “I was like, ‘All right, I’m going to be nervous. 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. I’m just gonna go attack, stay in that mindset. If they hit one, they hit one. I just wanted to stay aggressive and just keep (pitching). I didn’t want to beat myself.”
Not many Mariners players stuck around to watch as an opposing team rushed on to their home field to celebrate with a pitcher that had held them hitless. On May 5, Baltimore’s Means also no-hit the Mariners, narrowly missing a perfect game.
Turnbull wasn’t quite perfect, walking two. But he was good enough to no-hit the worst offensive team in baseball. He struck out nine batters. He threw 117 pitches with 77 strikes, including 22 first-pitch strikes to the 28 batters.
“We have to get better,” Servais said. “I know we have a young team, and some of this is growing pains. But you know there’s a competitiveness that has to take over in ballgames like that, making adjustments and we’re just not getting it done.”
Turnbull entered the game with a 9-25 career record, including a 2019 season when he posted a 3-17 record.
“I’ve come such a long way, and I’m nowhere close being done,” he said. “I don’t know if I have arrived yet, but I definitely feel like I belong here. There’s been a lot of challenges and hurdles … but I wouldn’t change any step of the journey.”
The Mariners’ current journey is no direct path to success. And each time they push forward, they seem to go awry. So who is to blame for this uneven and meandering route to nowhere?
“It starts with me and the coaching staff and trying to give players a game plan going into game and what to expect,” Servais said. “Ultimately, baseball is a team sport, but it’s such an individual battle. When you step into the batter’s box, you’re solo, it’s one on one, man against man. And that’s where the competitiveness really has to take over. You have to find out a way to win the battle.”
The easy scapegoat would be hitting coach Tim Laker and his assistant, Jarret DeHart. For a time, before Edgar Martinez held the job, the Mariners cycled through hitting coaches like Spinal Tap did with drummers. Haniger was irritated at such a notion.
“I will say it’s absolutely not our hitting coaches,” he said. “Our hitting coaches work harder than anybody, in my opinion, on our staff. They get us prepared every single day. They know scouting reports on every single guy. I see them working on the plane. They’re always breaking down our video and helping us try to get better, and there’s no one to blame.”
Well, there is one source of blame.
“It definitely falls on the players,” Haniger said. “We’ve got to make adjustments. You can’t be pointing fingers. You’ve got to look in the mirror and figure out what you need to do.”
Seattle got a solid, if not lengthy, start from Justin Dunn. The young right-hander pitched 5 2/3 innings, allowing two runs on five hits with two walks and a career-high nine strikeouts.
For most teams, that’s a start that would give you a chance to win. But right now, with the way the Mariners are hitting, at least in games excluding the three wins vs. Cleveland, two runs allowed are probably two too many.
After getting two quick outs in the first inning, Dunn let a first-pitch fastball to Jeimer Candelario catch too much plate, and the Tigers’ No. 3 hitter was looking to swing. It produced a towering no-doubt solo homer to center.
The Tigers picked up their second run against Dunn in the third inning with Candelario scoring Robbie Grossman, who had reached on a walk, advanced to second on an infield single and moved to third on a wild pitch that should’ve been blocked by catcher Luis Torrens.