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Fulmer falters; Tribe continues to stymie Tigers

MLB.com @beckjason

CLEVELAND -- Michael Fulmer looked like he was ready to march quickly through the visiting dugout and down the steps to the clubhouse as he exited in the fourth inning Thursday with nobody out and eight runs in. Just before the steps, however, he threw his glove against the dugout bench.

It was a rare flash of frustration from a pitcher whose composure has defied his age. It was an apt punctuation mark on a four-game series sweep the Tigers would rather forget, culminating in a 9-3 loss to the Indians at Progressive Field.

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CLEVELAND -- Michael Fulmer looked like he was ready to march quickly through the visiting dugout and down the steps to the clubhouse as he exited in the fourth inning Thursday with nobody out and eight runs in. Just before the steps, however, he threw his glove against the dugout bench.

It was a rare flash of frustration from a pitcher whose composure has defied his age. It was an apt punctuation mark on a four-game series sweep the Tigers would rather forget, culminating in a 9-3 loss to the Indians at Progressive Field.

View Full Game Coverage

The Tigers have dropped 11 consecutive games in the rivalry dating back to last season. Fulmer is the last Detroit pitcher to beat the Tribe, delivering six quality innings in Cleveland on a Sunday night before the All-Star break. He hadn't faced the Indians since then.

"Just one of those games," Fulmer said of the rematch. "Command wasn't there. They were hitting everything. … No matter what I threw, no matter where I threw it, mistakes, good pitches, they were all hitting the ball pretty hard. I just have to do a better job of kind of limiting the damage."

If Justin Verlander's trade in August elevated Fulmer to Tigers staff ace, Thursday's outing felt like a transfer of the angst the Indians used to inflict on Verlander. Francisco Lindor's nine-pitch at-bat to lead off the opening inning, including four foul balls with two strikes to continue the battle, set the tone for the night, culminating in an opposite-field loft to the left-field bleachers off Fulmer's 95-mph fastball.

Video: DET@CLE: Lindor leads off with opposite-field homer

Of the 34 fastballs Fulmer threw, he induced no swings-and-misses and just four called strikes. The ones Cleveland put in play had an average exit velocity of 100 mph, according to Statcast™. Lindor's two-run double in the second inning was actually hit harder (109.8 mph) than the leadoff homer (105.5). The double followed hard-hit ground-ball singles from Roberto Perez (111.9) and Tyler Naquin (108.1).

"They were hitting his fastball," catcher John Hicks said, "so we went to something else. We threw more changeups and sliders than in any other outing that I've caught him."

Said Fulmer: "As it went on, I just tried to slow their bats down a little bit. Fastball away, fastball in, they wore the four-hole out, they went to the opposite field. They were just hitting everything."

When Fulmer went away from the heater, the Tribe waited on mistakes. He threw one fastball in a 12-pitch stretch in the second against Jason Kipnis and Jose Ramirez, despite falling behind on 2-0 counts to both. After Ramirez declined to chase a slider off the plate, running the count full, Fulmer threw another. This one, he left up enough for Ramirez to golf over the right-field fence for a two-run homer.

"That's a really good hitting team," manager Ron Gardenhire said, "and when you make mistakes, it doesn't matter how hard you threw or what you threw. If you get the ball up, they're going to bang it."

Indians pitchers have surrendered just 11 earned runs to the Tigers in the last 11 meetings, including a pair of Nicholas Castellanos RBI singles plating Leonys Martin to account for Detroit's first two runs Thursday. Martin's second consecutive three-hit game paced the Tigers offense against Trevor Bauer (1-1), who struck out seven Tigers over as many innings.

Video: DET@CLE: Castellanos drives in Martin with RBI single

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Miggy milestone: Miguel Cabrera said after Wednesday's loss that he needed to adjust his swing after trying too hard to pull hard. He was 4-for-45 over his last 13 games against the Indians before sending a Bauer pitch the other way for a ground-ball single to right. Cabrera's 2,646th career hit tied him with Hall of Famer Jimmie Foxx for 78th on the all-time Major League list. It also extended the seventh inning for Castellanos' second RBI single.

Video: DET@CLE: Castellanos plates Martin with single to LF

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
JaCoby Jones, getting the start in left field a day after Mikie Mahtook was optioned to Triple-A Toledo, turned in a highlight catch in the eighth inning when he tumbled over the railing in foul territory to bring in Jose Ramirez's fly ball.

Video: DET@CLE: Jones ranges over railing for superb catch

UP NEXT
The Tigers return to Detroit for a 10-game, 10-day homestand, beginning with a three-game weekend series against the Yankees. Mike Fiers starts the opener Friday, and New York will counter with left-hander Jordan Montgomery. First pitch is set for 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