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Tigers can't back solid Fulmer as skid hits 9

MLB.com @beckjason

DETROIT -- Michael Fulmer is sounding like Justin Verlander did a year ago around this same time: faithful that his pitching adjustments are going to yield improved outcomes, but increasingly frustrated that they haven't gotten results yet.

"The stuff's there," Fulmer said Thursday after the Tigers' ninth straight loss, this one a 4-2 defeat to the A's to complete a four-game sweep at Comerica Park. "I see it, and hopefully everybody else sees it. Just inches away.

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DETROIT -- Michael Fulmer is sounding like Justin Verlander did a year ago around this same time: faithful that his pitching adjustments are going to yield improved outcomes, but increasingly frustrated that they haven't gotten results yet.

"The stuff's there," Fulmer said Thursday after the Tigers' ninth straight loss, this one a 4-2 defeat to the A's to complete a four-game sweep at Comerica Park. "I see it, and hopefully everybody else sees it. Just inches away.

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"We're so close. I keep saying that. I know I keep saying that and the results still haven't been there, but as soon as I put one full game together, I think we're going to start rolling."

This is where Verlander was last summer, trying to lead a struggling team and find his All-Star form, showing it in stretches but struggling to put it together for full games. Verlander finally turned the corner last August, and it landed him a deal to the Astros on Aug. 31 that won him and Houston a long-awaited World Series title.

Nobody can tell whether the same fate awaits Fulmer. If the Tigers make a big deal around this year's non-waiver Trade Deadline, Fulmer is their most marketable commodity, as the gathering of scouts at his recent starts suggested, though the scouting attendance waned on a hot summer afternoon.

What they saw was Fulmer as an ace. His eight innings marked his longest outing since the season's opening weekend. Fulmer's 110th and final pitch was a fastball at 97 mph to strike out Stephen Piscotty after he fouled off a 98-mph pitch earlier in the at-bat. Just as important were the 25-year-old righty's secondary pitches, including a changeup he'd been searching for over the first half of the season.

Fulmer's fastball averaged just over 96 mph while pounding the strike zone. He generated swings and misses: six off his four-seam fastball, five more on his slider.

"I'm tired of saying it, but I felt the stuff was good again today," Fulmer said. "Just not the results I wanted. And it's not frustrating anyone more than myself. I felt the changeup was as good as it's been all year, by far."

Fulmer's demise was a three-run third the A's put together with five singles, only one of which had an exit velocity of 90 mph or harder. Chad Pinder's RBI double just out of center fielder JaCoby Jones' reach tacked on a run in the fourth.

"We had a game plan, and it was to attack with the fastball," catcher James McCann said. "He did a really good job early on and they started to -- I don't really want to say hit it. They blooped a few in. … But the good thing that he did was make an adjustment. We started using our offspeed stuff more, and he did a heckuva job of competing and finding a way to get through eight innings."

Fulmer's frustration was evident on one of the third-inning singles, as he tossed up his glove in disbelief. That brought out pitching coach Rick Anderson, who displayed some of the calming presence he's expected to bring to the role after taking over Wednesday.

"Andy had a little talk with him about pitching," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Use all your pitches. And the rest of the way through, he pretty much used all his pitches, his slider and his change. I think you saw the results. They were pretty good after that."

Video: OAK@DET: Gardenhire on Manaea, 4-2 loss to A's

Fulmer (3-7) allowed one hit over his next four innings, throwing just 40 pitches in that stretch. He finished with no walks and five strikeouts for the afternoon, and he completed June with 13 runs on 29 hits over 33 2/3 innings, good for a 3.94 ERA, with six walks and 28 strikeouts.

Fulmer spent a long time after the game talking more with Anderson and Gardenhire, searching for ideas on that last step.

"Just saying, 'You got any suggestions here?'" Fulmer said. "Because everybody's saying, 'Don't change, don't change.' But I just have to put up zeroes, and unfortunately we weren't able to do that today. … All the stuff's there. All the right pieces are there. We're just trying to put it all together for a full game."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Castellanos homers: Nicholas Castellanos' 11th home run of the year, a two-run shot in the first inning, comprised Detroit's lone scoring against Sean Manaea (8-6). It was an opposite-field loft, Castellanos' second of the series.

Video: OAK@DET: Castellanos hustles to make a strong grab

UP NEXT
The Tigers head to Toronto for Canada Day weekend to play a four-game wraparound series against the Blue Jays, beginning with a 7:07 p.m. ET game Friday at Rogers Centre. Francisco Liriano (3-3, 3.94 ERA) returns to Toronto for the first time since his midsummer trade from the Blue Jays to the Astros last year. Marcus Stroman (0-5, 6.80 ERA) will try to shake off his struggles against an up-and-down Detroit offense.

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

Detroit Tigers, Nicholas Castellanos, Michael Fulmer