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Fulmer turns it around, but bats can't back him

MLB.com @beckjason

DETROIT -- The Tigers' Rally Goose was Smoaked on Sunday. It is not yet cooked.

"It's still got a winning record," catcher James McCann said after Sunday's 8-4 loss to the Blue Jays ended Detroit's goose-inspired four-game winning streak. "There's no such thing as a perfect goose."

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DETROIT -- The Tigers' Rally Goose was Smoaked on Sunday. It is not yet cooked.

"It's still got a winning record," catcher James McCann said after Sunday's 8-4 loss to the Blue Jays ended Detroit's goose-inspired four-game winning streak. "There's no such thing as a perfect goose."

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Michael Fulmer might be able to relate at this point, even with his feathers ruffled. The All-Star and Tigers ace wasn't perfect with his adjustments after his struggles last start prompted a thorough self-analysis. But he was better, and for five-plus innings, he kept the Tigers in a low-scoring duel with Aaron Sanchez.

Video: TOR@DET: Martin lifts a solo home run to right

And as manager Ron Gardenhire took the ball from a frustrated Fulmer with two on and nobody out in the seventh, he made sure Fulmer knew that.

"I told him, 'You threw the crap out of the ball,'" Gardenhire said. "He did his job. He got us into the seventh inning. He gave us an opportunity in that ballgame, and that's what you want him to do."

After the Angels knocked him out in the fourth inning Tuesday, Fulmer said he was embarrassed. More importantly, he said he needed to command fastballs down in the zone and worry less about drawing swing-and-misses. On Sunday, he pounded Blue Jays hitters with it. Forty-eight of his 61 pitches through five scoreless innings were fastballs, either two- or four-seamers. The rest were sliders.

The fastballs, sinking and otherwise, averaged better than 95 mph, topping out just shy of 98.

"Hitting 97 isn't easy, especially when it's sinking and running the way that his fastball does," McCann said. "That was impressive today. He came out and said, 'Here you go, hit it.' He had a lot of success until the sixth, seventh inning."

Video: TOR@DET: Gardenhire on loss to Blue Jays, Fulmer

Fulmer didn't throw a changeup until his third trip through the Blue Jays' order. He dared Toronto's hitters to lift his sinker. One line-drive single and two fly-ball outs through the first five innings were evidence that they couldn't.

"Sinker was working finally," Fulmer said, "Getting my mechanics back to where they were a couple years ago, to where the sinker was actually sinking instead of running -- less balls in the air."

The way the Tigers have been playing this homestand, that seemingly should've been enough, keeping Detroit in position for the rallies that have consistently arrived this week. But Sanchez (3-5), who has had his own struggles this season, delivered a reminder why Toronto wasn't willing to include him in David Price trade talks with Detroit in 2015. He retired his first seven hitters to nestle in for six innings of two-hit, one-run ball. Sanchez struck out seven in his first victory -- and his longest outing -- since April 30.

By the time the Tigers' offense rallied, the Blue Jays had soared ahead. Justin Smoak -- a native of Goose Creek, S.C. -- was a big reason.

Fulmer (2-5) had two outs in the sixth and a 1-2 count on Yangervis Solarte, who fouled off a pair of 97-mph fastballs out of the zone to stay alive for a walk. Fulmer went with all fastballs against Smoak, who drew a 3-0 count before getting a full-count heater over the plate and sending it 421 feet to right-center field.

"When you fall behind a guy 3-0, you have to throw him a fastball to the plate," Fulmer said.

Smoak added an RBI ground-rule double during a four-run seventh off Fulmer and Warwick Saupold, leaving Fulmer with four runs on five hits over six-plus innings.

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Fulmer gets hook in seventh: After a leadoff single in the seventh, Fulmer had a 1-2 count on Russell Martin, whom he tried to finish off with sliders to get his pitches back down. Martin declined to chase them, leading Gardenhire out of the dugout with a hook and a call for Saupold, who yielded four hits in a six-batter stretch.

"I could've left him out there at 90 pitches," Gardenhire said, "but I didn't want to do that. We've seen that kind of fall apart and I didn't want to see that happen. Unfortunately, [Saupold] came in and gave up his runs."

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Castellanos makes catch: Former Tigers prospect Devon Travis greeted Saupold with a drive deep to right field, challenging Nicholas Castellanos. The Tigers' right fielder, however, tracked it right to the wall, where he made a leaping catch for the first out of the seventh inning.

Video: TOR@DET: Castellanos makes leaping catch at the wall

UP NEXT
While the Tigers prepare to make the top overall pick in Monday's MLB Draft, they have baseball to play, with a day-night doubleheader against the American League East-leading Yankees. Miguel Cabrera will take his hacks at Luis Severino and Domingo German with first pitches at 1:10 and 7:10 p.m. ET.

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.

Detroit Tigers, Michael Fulmer