Spencer Turnbull pitched seven strong innings and Miguel Cabrera singled home the tiebreaking run in the eighth as the Detroit Tigers edged the Pittsburgh Pirates 2-1 on Sunday to sweep the three-game series.
After the Tigers posted 17-13 and 11-5 wins at PNC Park, the finale turned into a pitching duel.
Cabrera’s single to left-center field off Richard Rodriguez (0-1) scored Jonathan Schoop, who was hit by a pitch with two outs and took second on a wild pitch.
It was the 1,702nd RBI of Cabrera’s career. He ranks 27th all-time in the major leagues.
Detroit improved to 8-5, including 5-1 on the road, a year after having the worst record in the major leagues at 47-114.
“What helps Miggy this year is we’ve got some big guys around him now and teams have to go after him a little more,” Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. “In big situations, I’d rather have him up there than anybody on our team.”
Turnbull (2-0) allowed only one run and five hits while striking out four and walking two. He has now won two starts in a row after losing his final 13 decisions last season as a rookie when he finished with a 3-17 record, the most losses in the majors.
Turnbull attacked the Pirates with a heavy dose of two-seam and four-seam fastballs. He also could be seen talking to himself between pitches at time, reminiscent of former Tigers pitcher Mark “The Bird” Fidrych.
“He’s very invested in the game,” catcher Austin Romine said. “He wants to be perfect. He wants to pitch a great game. When the pitchers are talking it means they are invested. Hey, certain guys are certain ways. Everyone is different.”
Said Pirates manager Derek Shelton: “Turnbull kept us on the ground all day.” Turnbull got 12 of his 21 outs came on ground balls.
Buck Farmer pitched a scoreless eighth inning and Joe Jimenez retired the side in the ninth for his fifth save.
Pittsburgh has the worst mark in the big leagues this year, falling to 3-13 with its 10th loss in 11 games.
Pirates starter Steven Brault pitched two hitless innings. He was filling in for Joe Musgrove, who was scratched from the scheduled start a day earlier because of right ankle soreness.
Brault was much better than in his relief outing Friday against the Tigers in which he failed to retire any of the six batters he faced and was charged with four runs.
The Pirates opened the scoring in the fourth inning on Erik Gonzalez’s RBI single off the glove of Schoop, the second baseman, with two outs.
The Tigers answered the run in the fifth to tie the score. Victor Reyes doubled with one out and came home on Romine’s single.
Gonzalez, Romine, and Pittsburgh’s Adam Frazier each had two hits.
THE CARDINAL EFFECT
The Pirates had the opener of their three-game series with the Cardinals, which was scheduled for Monday at Busch Stadium, postponed while St. Louis deals with a COVID-19 outbreak. It’s unclear whether the entire series will be scrapped pending an update by Major League Baseball.
“We’ll approach just like you have to approach everything else this year and that’s you have no idea what the hell you’re supposed to do,” Brault said.
The Tigers are scheduled to host the Cardinals in a makeup doubleheader on Thursday. Those two teams had their four-game series in Detroit postponed earlier in the week.
BLAST FROM THE PAST
The Pirates signed former All-Star RHP Henderson Alvarez as a free agent and assigned him to their alternate training site in Altoona. The 30-year-old last pitched in the major leagues in 2017 with the Philadelphia Phillies.
The Pirates recalled LHP Brandon Waddell and INF/OF Jose Osuna from Altoona and RHP Nick Mears was assigned there. INF/OF Phillip Evans (broken left jaw, concussion) was placed on the 45-day injured list.
Tigers: CF JaCoby Jones (left abdominal tightness) left the game in the bottom of the third. He was injured on a swing in the top of the inning.
Pirates: Evans will miss the remainder of the season after being injured in a collision with RF Gregory Polanco on Saturday. The 27-year-old rookie had been one of the few bright spots for the Pirates this season, hitting .359 with one home run and nine RBIs in 11 games.
Tigers: Open a three-game series against the White Sox on Monday night in Detroit with RHP Michael Fulmer (0-0, 13.50) pitching against LHP Dallas Keuchel (1-0, 2.55). The expectation is for Fulmer to pitch the first three innings then be followed by LHP Daniel Norris, who was recently removed from the rotation.
Pirates: Tentatively scheduled to play the Cardinals on Tuesday night.
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