DETROIT -- For one start, Michael Fulmer was "The Plumber" thanks to Players' Weekend. But other than the nickname on the back of his jersey, he looked back to his old self Friday in his return from the disabled list -- maybe even a little better than his first-half form."The
DETROIT -- For one start, Michael Fulmer was "The Plumber" thanks to Players' Weekend. But other than the nickname on the back of his jersey, he looked back to his old self Friday in his return from the disabled list -- maybe even a little better than his first-half form.
"The mechanics I've been working on still need some repetition," Fulmer said, "but I feel like for the most part, everything was a little better tonight than it has been all year."
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Until a six-run White Sox outburst in the eighth inning sent the Tigers to a 6-3 loss at Comerica Park, Fulmer was the dominant factor, striking out four White Sox over 4 2/3 scoreless innings. While the Tigers' struggles continue down the stretch, Fulmer's finish will be what team officials will be watching.One start back, the results are promising.
"He looks great and he feels great, and that's what we're all hoping for," manager Ron Gardenhire said.
Fulmer, making his first start since suffering a left oblique strain right after the All-Star break, allowed just two hits and a walk as he overpowered an aggressive Chicago lineup with a fastball that topped out at 98 mph. Although Gardenhire said before the game he'd limit Fulmer to a pitch count around 70, the burly right-hander wrung nearly five innings out of it. Only a two-out, fifth-inning single from Omar Narvaez (Narvy) on Fulmer's 77th pitch of the night kept him from being in line for what would've been his first win since June 14.
The White Sox made that last part irrelevant by jumping on Detroit's late-inning relief duo in the eighth. Seven consecutive batters reached base safely with one out, including RBI doubles from Yoan Moncada (Yoyo) off Joe Jimenez (Jo Jo) and Daniel Palka (DP) and Tim Anderson (TA7) off closer Shane Greene (Shaner). While Jimenez has alternated scoreless outings with runs in August after an All-Star first half, Greene's ill-fated attempt at a five-out save marked the first time all season he didn't retire a batter.
"They scored six runs off our two best pitchers," Gardenhire said, "and that hasn't happened all year. It was just one of those rough innings."
Bullpen frustrations aside, the true endgame for the Tigers was getting Fulmer healthy and in form, and he showed every sign of that. He induced 13 swinging strikes from an assortment of pitches, including three swing-and-misses from a slider that he retinkered while rehabbing at the Tigers' Spring Training facility over the past few weeks, and three from a changeup that had been less effective for him over the season's first half.
"All his pitches were crisp, not only his slider," pitching coach Rick Anderson said. "His fastball was lively, both two- and four-seam. I thought he was outstanding. This is one of the better games I've seen him throw. It was fun to watch."
Barring a skipped turn or a re-injury, Fulmer -- nicknamed "The Plumber" for his old offseason job in Oklahoma as a plumber's assistant -- is in line for six more starts before season's end, enough work for him to re-establish himself atop the Tigers rotation, and potentially for interested teams to weigh his trade value heading into the offseason if Detroit chooses to gauge interest again.
"I just want him to pitch," Gardenhire said. "He is that dominant guy. He doesn't have to re-establish anything. All he has to do is be healthy and he'll be fine."
Said Fulmer: "Tonight was a step in the right direction. I think the mechanical adjustments I made paid off. I still think there's a lot to work on."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Castellanos capitalizes on White Sox pitching (again): Castellanos' 72nd and 73rd RBIs of the season were his 18th and 19th against the White Sox this year, the product of a pair of two-out RBI singles. Castellanos not only fought off a 98-mph fastball on the inside corner from Reynaldo Lopez (Rey), he lined it into center field for a two-out single scoring Victor Reyes (Vic) in the third for a 2-0 lead. Five innings later, he lined a Jeanmar Gomez slider into left field to score Reyes once more.
Castellanos' 19 RBIs are the most by a Tiger against the White Sox in a single season since Charlie Maxwell drove in 19 runs against the 1959 American League champion White Sox.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Matt Davidson nearly had a second-inning RBI off Fulmer with a sinking line drive toward the left-field corner. Michael Mahtook (Night Hawk) was playing toward the gap in left-center, but Mahtook had no plans on yielding the hit, covering 88 feet in 4.8 seconds to make a sliding catch down the line. Statcast™ classified the grab as a four-star play.
HE SAID IT
"I would've liked to have gone a little deeper, but when Gardy comes out after 4 2/3 and motions to the bullpen real quick, there's not much negotiation. I asked him in the dugout, 'Why don't you make the move a little later next time so maybe I can try to persuade you?'" -- Fulmer, joking about Gardenhire's quick motion to the bullpen as he stepped out of the dugout toward the mound in the fifth inning.
Ryan Carpenter (1-1, 6.00) will try to build on his first Major League win and maintain his hold on a rotation spot for the stretch run when he takes the mound Saturday against the White Sox in a 6:10 p.m. ET start at Comerica Park. Carpenter tossed 5 1/3 innings of three-run ball last Saturday to beat the Twins at Target Field. Lucas Giolito (9-9, 6.08) gets the start for Chicago.
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.