CHICAGO -- The Tigers' offense toiled against White Sox starter Reynaldo Lopez all Monday afternoon at Guaranteed Rate Field. But their bullpen let them down when it mattered most.
Shane Greene allowed a game-tying solo homer to Daniel Palka in the ninth inning, and a walk-off, two-run homer to Matt Davidson as the Tigers dropped the series opener, 4-2, to Chicago. Niko Goodrum's 16th home run of the year, a solo shot in the seventh inning, and Victor Martinez's homer in the ninth amounted to Detroit's only offensive production.
Greene threw 30 pitches in Sunday's win over the Yankees, but manager Ron Gardenhire said there was no hesitation in bringing him back out a day later.
"He's our closer. He gets the ball," Gardenhire said. "He just made two bad pitches, that's silly to think that we would go with somebody else. He's the guy, that's his ball.
"His velocity's good, it's about pitches, just making pitches," Gardenhire added. "You get them up in this league, and they whack you. And those balls were up and over the plate, both of them."
Monday's contest started the way it ended, as Michael Fulmer gave up a Nicky Delmonico solo homer on his first pitch. That ended up the only hit Fulmer allowed in 5 2/3 innings of work, however.
"First pitches of the game are always tricky," Fulmer said. "Obviously, you want to locate a fastball, because I'd say 99 times out of 100, fastballs come on the first pitch. We threw a sinker, just left it up and he hit it out."
Making his third start since returning from the disabled list with an oblique injury, Fulmer appeared inefficient at times. He walked four batters and needed 96 pitches to navigate his 5 2/3 innings, but Monday showed marked improvement over his last start against the Royals, in which he gave up seven runs on eight hits in just 3 2/3 frames.
Fulmer said that with all the mechanical adjustments he's made trying to come back from the injury, he didn't completely trust them in the first inning.
"I was still flying open a little bit, but as soon as I came back in the first I realized I was flying open," Fulmer said. "I started to close myself off a little more, and that's when I started to induce some weak contact, so I was very happy with that. … Despite the four walks, command will come."
"I think he was pretty frustrated," Gardenhire said of the first-inning homer. "Then he settled in and everything started going his way and he threw the ball really good. Got his pitch count up there really good, up to where he need him to get to."
Fulmer's afternoon was cut short after he took a 115.6-mph comebacker off his right shin with two outs in the sixth inning. The right-hander is day to day with a right shin contusion.
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Final go-around: The White Sox rally put a damper on Detroit's celebration following Martinez's go-ahead home run in the top of the inning. Martinez nearly missed Monday's game with flu-like symptoms, but he ended up providing a big hit. With Martinez set to retire at the end of the season, he appears to be playing much more relaxed than he did earlier this year, Gardenhire said.
"That's a load off his mind, he's not worrying about it anymore," Gardenhire said. "And I think he's just relaxed and said, 'I'm just gonna have fun the rest of the way,' and that's the way you're supposed to play baseball. Relaxed and have fun. He's not pressing, trying to do this, trying to do that, he's just playing and having fun, and he's swinging really good."
"I have nothing to prove to anybody," Martinez said. "I just, like I said before, I've just been enjoying it a lot playing with these guys, and sometimes you have to do whatever it [takes] for the team. Unfortunately, we're not in the race or nothing, but at some point they are going to be in the middle of the race playing for September."
Goodrum's 16 home runs this season are the most by a Tigers rookie since 2003, when Craig Monroe hit 23 and Eric Munson hit 18. Goodrum has three homers over his last five games.
The Tigers continue their three-game series with the White Sox on Tuesday at 8:10 p.m. ET and send Francisco Liriano (3-9, 4.96 ERA) to the mound. Liriano has struggled over his last three starts, giving up 12 earned runs in 11 1/3 innings (9.53 ERA). Lucas Giolito (10-9, 5.66) will toe the rubber at Guaranteed Rate Field for Chicago.