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Fulmer changes things up, flusters Royals

Rookie righty glad to help Tigers maintain Wild Card spot
MLB.com

DETROIT -- If he hadn't already, Michael Fulmer solidified his American League Rookie of the Year Award candidacy on Friday night with seven innings of one-run baseball in the Tigers' 8-3 win over the Royals.

The 23-year-old right-hander took the mound with the Tigers looking to maintain their half-game lead for the second American League Wild Card spot and he stepped up in a big way, logging seven strong innings with nine strikeouts. And the pressure of the playoff push doesn't seem to be a big deal for the poised youngster.

Full Game Coverage

DETROIT -- If he hadn't already, Michael Fulmer solidified his American League Rookie of the Year Award candidacy on Friday night with seven innings of one-run baseball in the Tigers' 8-3 win over the Royals.

The 23-year-old right-hander took the mound with the Tigers looking to maintain their half-game lead for the second American League Wild Card spot and he stepped up in a big way, logging seven strong innings with nine strikeouts. And the pressure of the playoff push doesn't seem to be a big deal for the poised youngster.

Full Game Coverage

"I just try to do my job," Fulmer said. "It's just 'go out there and get a win for the team.'"

Fulmer came to the Major Leagues mainly relying on his fastball and slider, but the emergence of his changeup has made him even more dependable. His offspeed stuff was working well for him against the Royals, and that is something he has been striving for in the latter part of the season.

"I went to the changeup early a lot and the slider toward the middle and later in the game," Fulmer said. "I think the slider had a little more depth tonight, which has been a problem. I worked on it in my bullpen session between starts. I'm looking to catch more plate with it as opposed to trying to nibble and get to a lefty's back foot."

With one more scheduled start before the end of the regular season, Fulmer needs 6 1/3 innings to qualify for the AL ERA title, with his sitting at 2.95.

"I couldn't care less, honestly," he said. "Just wins for the team. We got a win tonight and that's all that matters. I can't control anything else."

The Tigers announced mid-season that they wanted to keep Fulmer on a strict innings limit in an attempt to preserve his young arm. With a strong, competitive mentality, Fulmer has handled the limit with maturity.

"I still feel good, so I guess it's working," Fulmer said. "Nobody knows, and Brad's told me that. He goes, 'We're just going to try and limit you to whatever we think and we'll go from there.' Hopefully I'm able to still pitch beyond the regular season. That's our goal as a team and all I know is I feel fine and I feel healthy, and stuff's still there."

Fulmer -- along with fellow young starters Matt Boyd and Daniel Norris -- has put the Tigers in a good position to make the playoffs, and Fulmer gives credit to the veterans on the team, including catcher Jarrod Saltalmacchia.

"They've answered all of my questions I've had, annoying or not, and they've been there by my side all year," Fulmer said. "I wouldn't be in the position I am without them, honestly."

Kyle Beery is a reporter for MLB.com based in Detroit.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Detroit Tigers, Michael Fulmer