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Tigers sunk again by long ball in finale vs. Reds

Candelario, Goodrum homer for Detroit in loss
MLB.com @beckjason

CINCINNATI -- The Great American Ball Park homer bug bit the Tigers again.

"[Michael] Fulmer was unbelievable," manager Ron Gardenhire said after Wednesday afternoon's 5-3 loss to the Reds completed a two-game series sweep. "He makes the pitch, our catcher is going to block it, and the guy hits it out. And that's part of this ballpark. It flies here."

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CINCINNATI -- The Great American Ball Park homer bug bit the Tigers again.

"[Michael] Fulmer was unbelievable," manager Ron Gardenhire said after Wednesday afternoon's 5-3 loss to the Reds completed a two-game series sweep. "He makes the pitch, our catcher is going to block it, and the guy hits it out. And that's part of this ballpark. It flies here."

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The way Fulmer has been pitching, he can deal with Scooter Gennett's game-tying two-run home run, and the Eugenio Suarez go-ahead solo shot on the next pitch. If Fulmer keeps pitching like this, he expects games will turn his way.

"Honestly, the best way to put it is that I'm mad at the results, but I'm not mad at the way I pitched," Fulmer said. "I feel like I'm so close to being back to where I want to be."

Video: DET@CIN: Tigers turn strike-'em-out, throw-'em-out DP

Fulmer has allowed multiple homers in four games this season. The previous three times, he was rocked for more runs than innings pitched and was chased early each time. This time, Fulmer was one strike away from six shutout innings and a third consecutive outing with one run or less.

Fulmer has struck out 20 batters over 19 2/3 innings in his past three outings and allowed 15 hits. He has one win for his trouble, but he has reason to believe he's back to his American League Rookie of the Year Award-winning form. Fulmer is arguably better now, because he's throwing harder. His offseason strengthening program has added some velocity on his fastball.

Fulmer (3-6) fell to the same fate that hours earlier doomed Matthew Boyd, who yielded a short-porch grand slam on Tuesday night. Unlike Boyd, the big right-hander carried his dominance deeper into the game, holding the Reds to one hit, one walk and one hit batter through five innings while striking out eight of his first 18 batters.

Fulmer headed into his third trip through Cincinnati's order with his fastball sitting at 97-98 mph, complemented by a biting slider. The third trip, however, has been troublesome for him most of the year, with his OPS allowed jumping from .617 to .895.

"Today, I thought the stuff was a lot better," Fulmer said. "My slider was sharp, especially later in the game. Usually, it kind of flattens out. That's why I've had rough sixth and seventh innings. But today, I felt the slider was sharp."

That stuff is why Gardenhire never pondered pinch-hitting for Fulmer with the bases loaded in the previous half-inning.

"We're expecting nine innings out of him at that point," Gardenhire said. "That's his ballgame. That's completely his ballgame. That's who he is. He's our ace, and we expect him to keep going."

A double from leadoff batter Scott Schebler put the Reds' rally in motion in the sixth, but Fulmer recovered with a Tucker Barnhart flyout -- the first time Detroit retired the Cincinnati catcher this series -- and a Joey Votto strikeout on a slider down and in. Back-to-back sliders put Fulmer ahead on Gennett and a pitch away from escape, but he couldn't get a two-strike fastball past Gennett, who fouled off two at 98 mph, and took a third.

"He fouled off a couple great fastballs up at his chin, which is hard to do," Fulmer said. "I finally had to go back to the slider."

Fulmer went to the slider down and in, and he tried to bury it. Gennett lifted it an estimated 397 feet per Statcast™, into the right-field seats.

"I thought it was going to bounce," Fulmer said. "[Catcher James] McCann was getting ready to block it. [Gennett] just dropped the barrel on it. That's just good hitting by him. I thought it was the correct pitch."

Said McCann: "You just kind of have to tip your cap and move on when you get beat like that."

Fulmer went back to the slider on his next pitch. Former Tiger Suarez jumped it for a go-ahead solo homer. An ensuing walk to Jesse Winker ended Fulmer's afternoon with 5 2/3 innings of three-run ball; his nine strikeouts tied a season high.

"It was a good ballgame," Gardenhire said, "just frustrating, because our starter threw so damn well."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Candelario breaks out of slump: Jeimer Candelario was mired in a 4-for-36 skid and nearly had Wednesday's game off. Gardenhire instead rested first baseman John Hicks and gave another start to Candelario, who opened the scoring with an opposite-field home run off Reds starter Tyler Mahle to the left-field seats.

Video: DET@CIN: Candelario belts solo HR to open the scoring

"I've been working hard," Candelario said. "That's my philosophy: You're going to have some ups and downs, but you just have to continue working hard and everything's going to take care of itself. I just trust myself, and I know everything is going to be fine."

SOUND SMART
Blaine Hardy, who has been part of the Tigers' rotation for the past month, made a spot appearance out of the bullpen Wednesday, allowing two hits over a third of an inning. He was the first left-hander Detroit has used in relief since Daniel Stumpf pitched May 28 before his DL stint with ulnar nerve irritation.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
The Tigers created an eighth-inning rally without a ball hit out of the infield, thanks largely to the speed of JaCoby Jones. He singled on a bouncer to the third-base side of the mound, stole second, then took off on Jose Iglesias' chopper in front of home plate. When Barnhart fired to first base, Jones sped around third and scored without a play at the plate.

Video: DET@CIN: Iglesias hustles down line for an RBI single

HE SAID IT
"How crazy is it that somebody would want me to pinch-hit for [Fulmer] there? I'm looking at a nine-inning game. That's two different mindsets. Whoever's thinking that maybe should get their own team, and they can pull their guy out there. Then as soon as the next guy goes in and gives it up, then I would rip him, saying, 'Why in the hell would you do that?'" -- Gardenhire, on Fulmer batting in the sixth inning

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Suarez's home run was initially ruled a double off the top of the left-field wall, but a replay review determined that the ball actually cleared the wall and struck the railing beyond it.

Video: DET@CIN: Suarez's double overturned to solo home run

UP NEXT
The Tigers have their second off-day this week before opening an AL Central clash with the division-leading Indians in Cleveland with a 7:10 p.m. ET game Friday at Progressive Field. Mike Fiers (5-3, 4.09 ERA), who has held the Tribe to two runs over 13 innings in two meetings this year, will try to continue the trend opposite Indians rookie right-hander Shane Bieber (1-0, 3.97).

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

Detroit Tigers, Michael Fulmer