ARLINGTON -- Michael Fulmer knew he'd have a lot of family and friends driving from Oklahoma City to watch him pitch on Sunday -- maybe 40-50 people, he guessed, from texts and calls he received. He also knew he had a flight back to Detroit to catch after the game."I
ARLINGTON -- Michael Fulmer knew he'd have a lot of family and friends driving from Oklahoma City to watch him pitch on Sunday -- maybe 40-50 people, he guessed, from texts and calls he received. He also knew he had a flight back to Detroit to catch after the game.
"I told the ones that texted me, 'We have to catch a plane, so I'll try to come up for like 10 minutes,'" Fulmer said the day before. "But I've gotta see everybody."
As he turned around and raised his arms at the game's end, having thrown his first professional shutout in a 7-0 win over the Rangers -- the team he grew up watching -- everybody could see him. He raised his arms and pointed over the Tigers' dugout.
"I could hear them between every inning, with me walking off and me coming back on the mound," he said after the game. "It gets me going a little bit. I think I started the game with a little more adrenaline because I could hear those guys. They came down to the bullpen [during warmups], and I hear them yelling."
This was already a storybook season for the 23-year-old right-hander, now the first Tigers rookie to throw a shutout since Justin Verlander blanked the Royals on May 22, 2006. To do that in front of those closest to him, in a ballpark he remembers sitting in as a teenager, was almost too much.
"This is the only field that I've actually been to to watch games," said Fulmer, who was too young to watch Nolan Ryan pitch but idolized him and his style. "A lot people back home are Rangers fans."
Verlander, another pitcher who idolized Ryan, was among the first out of the dugout to congratulate him. He remembers bits and pieces of his own first shutout, but given the situation -- a getaway day game against the AL's top team, a formidable opposing lineup, with a chance to take the series and take momentum back home -- he appreciated this one.
"These guys were attacking early," Verlander said. "He had a lot of quick innings. Put that along with him having good stuff and being around the zone all day, and you get a CG shutty. That was pretty impressive."
In earlier starts this season, when Fulmer was pitching the day after Verlander in the rotation, he would watch Verlander's outings and take notes. This time, as Fulmer watched Matt Boyd shut down the Rangers for seven innings Saturday night, he noted one thing: They were swinging early and often.
It's not much different from the way he has approached most of his starts this summer, trying for quick innings to preserve his pitch count and counter the innings limit the Tigers have placed on him. He had a handful of hard-hit balls that put his defense to work, notably center fielder Tyler Collins, but he also had innings that went quickly.
"He was able to do what he wanted to do," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "He was throwing 97 mph in the seventh inning and locating his off-speed stuff behind in the count. … You can see why he has had the year he has had."
His lone runner in scoring position came with two hits in the fourth inning, and he left him there with a nasty slider to strike out Rougned Odor. That started Fulmer on a roll, retiring 13 consecutive batters.
He finished the eighth inning at 94 pitches and 96 mph on his fastball. Even with the Tigers watching his innings, manager Brad Ausmus said he had no debate sending him back out for the ninth. After a Nomar Mazara leadoff single and a three-ball count to Ian Desmond, though, Fulmer feared the hook if he allowed a walked.
"I get to 3-0 and I'm [thinking], 'Well, he's probably not swinging,'" Fulmer said. "I just threw strike one. He took the two-seam down and the umpire called it a strike. From there, he wasn't going to go down looking."
Fulmer and catcher James McCann went back to the slider. Desmond chased, giving Fulmer his ninth strikeout.
Up came Carlos Beltrán, who was Fulmer's last hitter regardless, Ausmus said later. He sent Fulmer's 112th pitch of the day to second to end the game and start the celebration.
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast.