KANSAS CITY -- For a while, it looked like the short temporary fences for the pregame celebrity softball match at Kauffman Stadium were the Royals' best chance at ending Michael Fulmer's scoreless innings streak on Friday night.As it turned out, Salvador Perez fared fine with the regular dimensions on his
KANSAS CITY -- For a while, it looked like the short temporary fences for the pregame celebrity softball match at Kauffman Stadium were the Royals' best chance at ending Michael Fulmer's scoreless innings streak on Friday night.
As it turned out, Salvador Perez fared fine with the regular dimensions on his sixth-inning solo homer that helped send the Tigers to a 10-3 loss to even the four-game series at one game apiece.
Fulmer's previous run allowed also was a sixth-inning solo homer to Tampa Bay's Evan Longoria at Comerica Park. That was on May 21. In between the sixth-inning shots, Fulmer put together a historic stretch of pitching for a Tigers rookie.
Fulmer's 33 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings comprise the longest streak by a rookie pitcher in franchise history, and the longest by a Tigers pitcher of any experience level since at least 1961. It's the longest scoreless streak by any Major League rookie starter since Fernando Valenzuela logged 35 consecutive zeros during his magical rookie campaign of 1981, though A's reliever Brad Ziegler put up 39 consecutive scoreless innings in 2008 -- an AL rookie record, according to STATS.
"It's impressive for anyone," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "I think it's much more impressive for a rookie."
Fulmer shrugged it off.
"Defense and catchers, they did everything," he said.
Neither the West Coast confines of Oakland and Anaheim, nor the mighty Blue Jays' lineup, nor the hitter-friendly dimensions of Yankee Stadium could muster a run on Fulmer's ledger. Nor, for that matter, could anything the Royals hit that stayed in the yard, though Kansas City certainly had its chances.
"Especially for a rookie, it's something special," Tigers catcher James McCann said. "It was fun to watch. It was fun to be a part of. What's more impressive to me about it is there were some innings that were tough for him."
Only the slow feet of Kendrys Morales and a quick throw in from Andrew Romine kept Morales from scoring on Paulo Orlando's two-out double to the center-field wall in the second inning. Up came Brett Eibner, who burned the Tigers in Thursday's series opener. Instead of gearing up the fastball, Fulmer threw five sliders, striking Eibner out on the last.
An inning later, the Royals had a better opportunity, runners at the same spots with one out and the middle of the order due up. Fulmer walked Hosmer on five pitches to load the bases, then induced an inning-ending double play grounder from Lorenzo Cain.
"He looked like a veteran on the mound," McCann said. "A lot of rookies give in to Hosmer trying to get him out. He understood that with a base open and a righty on deck, that was a favorable matchup. Just the way he goes about his business is special."
It was a two-out, first-pitch slider to Perez that did in Fulmer, perhaps warmed by the midsummer heat. As much as Fulmer thought through the third-inning jam, he was second-guessing himself for the sixth.
"I knew I threw three pitches and two outs. In the back of my mind, I'm saying he wasn't swinging," Fulmer said, "but I should've done a better job of executing my pitch. That was a mistake, and he made me pay for it."
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.