DETROIT -- The Tigers scored six runs in the first four innings, supporting Michael Fulmer to cruise to a 7-3 win in the rubber game of a three-game series Thursday at Comerica Park.The Tigers improved to 18-12 against American League Central opponents; they're 17-31 outside of their division. They won
DETROIT -- The Tigers scored six runs in the first four innings, supporting Michael Fulmer to cruise to a 7-3 win in the rubber game of a three-game series Thursday at Comerica Park.
The Tigers improved to 18-12 against American League Central opponents; they're 17-31 outside of their division. They won a series for the first time since sweeping the White Sox June 2-4. The Royals lost a series for the first time since the end of May.
"We need to win series, and winning this series was big," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said.
Fulmer (7-6) entered the day with a 3.29 ERA, seventh-lowest in the league, but he had a .500 record thanks to three Tigers shutouts, two of them 1-0 losses. A rush of early run support sent Fulmer cruising Thursday; Justin Upton hit a three-run homer in the first inning, followed by an Ian Kinsler solo shot in the third and an Andrew Romine two-run homer in the fourth.
Fulmer entered the ninth inning with a chance at a four-hit shutout before Andrew Butera's two-run double spoiled his bid with two outs.
"He was good, very aggressive in the zone," Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain said of Fulmer. "He threw strikes and did a good job of mixing it up."
Royals rookie right-hander Jake Junis (2-2) did his best to keep pace, but he was doomed to defeat by Upton's first-inning homer. He survived six innings with six runs on seven hits, striking out five but yielding all three Tigers homers.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Upton, up and away: Much like the Royals jumped Justin Verlander for three runs before recording an out Tuesday night, the Tigers didn't give Junis any time to settle in before putting him behind. Kinsler's leadoff single and an Alex Avila walk set up Upton, who sent a 2-0 pitch into the left-field seats for his 15th home run of the year and a 3-0 lead.
"I got ahead of Kinsler, and he hit a pitch that was down," Junis said. "Walked Avila, can't have that. Got behind Upton and left a pitch up that he handled."
Double plays keep Fulmer rolling: Fulmer hadn't yielded a baserunner until Ramon Torres singled to lead off the fourth, setting up the middle of the Royals' order to try to get the team back into the game. But a Jorge Bonifacio grounder to Romine on Fulmer's next pitch set up a double play and put Fulmer back on track for a quick, orderly inning. Another double play on Mike Moustakas' grounder to Kinsler did the same in the next inning following Eric Hosmer's leadoff single.
"He has three out pitches, including his fastball, to get guys out with," Avila said. "Typically you don't see a guy that's able to command three pitches to get you out with as well as he does at that velocity."
"I was just trying to get him to put it in play. I kept giving it to him. I didn't know what else to do." -- Royals reliever Kevin McCarthy, on a 15-pitch at-bat with J.D. Martinez in the seventh inning
"Just one out short. It happens. I felt like stuff was good all game. Even in that inning, get two quick outs. Wasn't trying to overdo anything. I felt like they fouled off some great pitches and ultimately just found holes that one inning." -- Fulmer, on his shutout bid
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The last Tigers pitcher to throw a Maddux -- a shutout in less than 100 pitches -- is David Price, who tossed a seven-hitter against the Indians in just 93 pitches on June 12, 2015.
Royals: The Royals return to Kauffman Stadium to open a four-game series with the Twins. On Friday night, left-hander Jason Vargas (11-3, 2.29 ERA) takes the mound at 7:15 p.m. CT for free on MLB.TV. Vargas gave up two runs through seven innings in a win over Toronto last Saturday.
Tigers: The homestand continues with a visit from the Indians for a four-game, three-day weekend series. Anibal Sanchez (0-0, 6.75), who has had two encouraging starts since his return from Triple-A Toledo, will start Friday's series opener at 7:10 p.m. ET on MLB.TV.
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Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.
Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.