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Fulmer chased early after defense's miscues

Starter allows 8 runs (5 earned) in career-low 2 2/3 innings
MLB.com @beckjason

KANSAS CITY -- Michael Fulmer stood up and took the blame, like he has many times in visitors' clubhouses this year when he probably shouldn't have had to. In an otherwise quiet Tigers clubhouse after a 16-4 loss to the Royals, it seemed like somebody had to.

"It's tough," Fulmer said, "but it comes all back onto me."

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KANSAS CITY -- Michael Fulmer stood up and took the blame, like he has many times in visitors' clubhouses this year when he probably shouldn't have had to. In an otherwise quiet Tigers clubhouse after a 16-4 loss to the Royals, it seemed like somebody had to.

"It's tough," Fulmer said, "but it comes all back onto me."

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Fulmer has three shutout losses on his road ledger this season, including two 1-0 defeats, thanks to the struggles of the Tigers' offense. On Thursday night, it was the opposite: Detroit's defense let him down.

Fulmer's eight runs allowed were the most of his Major League career, but just five were earned. His 2 2/3 innings marked his shortest start, but his 37-pitch opening inning felt like a start in itself.

A three-error opening inning essentially left Fulmer out to wilt in the mid-90s heat at Kauffman Stadium. By the time it was over, the impact was evident, even after he changed into a dry jersey.

"There's no question it affected him," manager Brad Ausmus said. "He threw 30-some pitches. Defensively, it was an ugly inning. There's no other way to frame it up. It was an ugly inning, maybe the ugliest inning we've had defensive since I've been here. Fulmer ends up throwing 30 pitches, 95-96 degrees out there, so I'm sure it had an impact."

Video: DET@KC: Royals take advantage of three Tigers errors

It was the first three-error inning from the Tigers since May 1, 2010, when Miguel Cabrera had errors on consecutive plays and Ryan Raburn booted a line drive to right field. The last three-error opening inning from the Tigers goes back to Sept. 9, 1989, all three errors coming from rookie right fielder Scott Lusader in a seven-run White Sox opening frame at Tiger Stadium.

That '89 Tigers team went 59-103, the worst record of Sparky Anderson's Hall of Fame managerial tenure. This year's team isn't that bad, even if they end up dealing away more key pieces by the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. But Thursday's result capped a series that serves as a microcosm of the 2017 Tigers.

After dominating the first two games of the series so thoroughly that it was hard to tell which team was contending, the Tigers left town with a series split. A ninth-inning comeback Wednesday rallied the Royals, then Thursday's first inning sent them surging.

By series' end, the two teams were back where they started -- the Royals in the thick of the division race, the Tigers eight games under .500.

"We almost snuck the third game last night," Ausmus said. "They came back in a very good game. Then today, we had Fulmer going, we wanted to come in and take the series, and it just went sideways."

It turned from the first two batters. Nicholas Castellanos' wayward throw put Whit Merrifield on, then Mikie Mahtook's mishandle of a Jorge Bonifacio gapper to right-center gave Merrifield the break he needed to score.

Fulmer struck out Lorenzo Cain but walked Eric Hosmer. He had an 0-2 count on Salvador Perez, but ran it back full before Perez placed a blooper into shallow left field.

Hosmer read it perfectly and went from first to third, but Bonifacio was still standing there, having hesitated. Jose Iglesias turned to find Hosmer at third and Bonifacio 10 feet from it, but Iglesias fired home on the run and bounced a ball past catcher James McCann.

"He's assuming that the guy was advancing two bases on the play," Ausmus said, "so he just turned to make a throw to home, not realizing that Hosmer was running up his tail and Bonifacio was kind of in no-man's land."

Those were the errors, but after Mike Moustakas hit another RBI blooper, the Royals exploited Detroit's defense again. Alcides Escobar grounded out to first, but when Cabrera threw across the infield to start a rundown, Perez had enough time to break for home and slide around McCann's tag.

Fulmer took the blame.

"They put some swings on balls that I thought were great pitches and they got a few soft-contact hits," Fulmer said. "Obviously some hard-hit balls, too, but some days are going to be like that. There's really not much you can do. But this one's on me."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

Detroit Tigers, Michael Fulmer