SEATTLE — Spencer Turnbull walked out of the bullpen feeling terrible, hoping a shaky pregame warmup would dissipate once he stepped on the mound.
A few hours later, Turnbull was being slammed in the face with a shaving cream pie and doused in water, beer and baby powder by his Detroit Tigers teammates on the grass at T-Mobile Park.
There was plenty to celebrate after Turnbull joined the parade of no-hitters in 2021.
“It is by far the best night of my life, most exciting, and it’s definitely kind of like one of those landmark stamps on my career up to this point,” Turnbull said.
The 28-year-old right-hander tossed the fifth no-hitter of the major league season, baffling the Seattle Mariners in Detroit’s 5-0 win.
Once best known for leading baseball in losses in 2019 when he had a 3-17 record, Turnbull twirled a gem that overmatched the Mariners and continued to highlight the dominance of pitchers through the first quarter of the season.
The five no-hitters through May 18 match the 1917 season for the most in baseball history by that date. Two of the five were thrown against Seattle at T-Mobile Park, and the Mariners are the first team since the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2015 to get no-hit twice in a month.
Turnbull is the first pitcher not named Justin Verlander to throw a no-hitter for Detroit since Jack Morris in 1984. Verlander threw two during his tenure with the Tigers, the last coming on May 7, 2011, in Toronto.
A decade later, Turnbull added his name to the team’s record book.
Turnbull had never gone more than seven innings in any of his previous 49 starts over three seasons. Now, he owns a no-no.
“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.”
Turnbull leaned on a fastball in the mid-90s (mph) and a biting slider to keep Seattle’s batters guessing. He also got a great defensive play from third baseman Jeimer Candelario in the seventh inning to rob Mitch Haniger of a possible hit, and then struck out Haniger in the ninth to end it.
“Probably three of the best pitches I made all night,” Turnbull said.
Turnbull (3-2) fanned 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.
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.
“It got to a point I think the last four innings, I don’t know if he shook one time,” Haase said. “We were just in really great sync and whatever I was putting down he was throwing and he was executing.”
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 base line. Candelario made a terrific sprawling stop of the one-hopper and a strong throw to first to get Haniger.
“That ball was hit so hard I didn’t have time to think. It was hit and it was already in (Candelario’s) glove,” Turnbull said.
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 last week before it was broken up.
“We have to get better. I know we have a young team, and some of this is growing pains,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “We’re just not getting it done.”
The major league record for no-hitters in a season since 1900 is seven, which has happened several times.
Candelario made the big defensive play and was responsible for nearly all of Detroit’s offense. He hit his third homer of the season with two outs in the first inning off Seattle starter Justin Dunn (1-2). Candelario added an RBI groundout in the third, and doubled off the wall in right-center and scored on Miguel Cabrera‘s RBI single in the eighth. Candelario ran through a stop sign from third base coach Chip Hale but scored when catcher Luis Torrens couldn’t handle the one-hop throw cleanly.
Mariners: OF Jake Fraley (hamstring strain) was doing on-field work prior to the game and might head out on a rehab assignment in the near future, Servais said. Fraley has been out since April 7. … LHP Marco Gonzales (forearm strain) could progress to facing a few hitters by the end of the week.
Tigers: LHP Tarik Skubal (0-6, 5.73 ERA) looks for his first win of the season. Skubal has lost four straight starts.
Mariners: Prized prospect Logan Gilbert (0-1, 9.00) makes his second major league start. Gilbert allowed four earned runs in his debut last week against Cleveland.