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Tigers' HRs aid Fulmer's K's in win vs. Rays

May 21, 2016

DETROIT -- James McCann beat his old college teammate, Drew Smyly, for a go-ahead two-run home run in the seventh inning, sending his current Tigers teammate, Michael Fulmer, to a victory in Detroit's 5-4 win over Tampa Bay on Saturday at Comerica Park.For the Rays, the game wasn't the only

DETROIT -- James McCann beat his old college teammate, Drew Smyly, for a go-ahead two-run home run in the seventh inning, sending his current Tigers teammate, Michael Fulmer, to a victory in Detroit's 5-4 win over Tampa Bay on Saturday at Comerica Park.
For the Rays, the game wasn't the only loss, as Kevin Kiermaier left with a fractured left hand after diving for a bloop single in center field.
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Smyly, once a bright Tigers pitching prospect, and Fulmer, Detroit's current top prospect, took a 1-1 duel into the seventh inning, both hurlers pitching past early solo homers. Cameron Maybin provided Detroit's solo homer in the third, his first of the season, but his leadoff single in the seventh provided the distraction for Smyly, who paid for falling behind McCann.

J.D. Martinez added a two-run homer off Steve Geltz later in the inning, providing insurance runs that became crucial once Brad Miller's two-run triple fueled a three-run eighth off Justin Wilson.

"He threw really well, kept us off-balance, used all his pitches," McCann said of Smyly. "But we were able to get to him, and we were able to get to the reliever that came in after him."
Fulmer (3-1), who made his first four Major League starts on the road, tossed seven innings of four-hit ball with a walk and 11 strikeouts. Smyly (2-5), facing his old team for the first time since going to Tampa Bay in the David Price trade two years ago, finished with three runs on seven hits over 6 1/3 innings.

"Drew Smyly was outstanding," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "Their guy was outstanding. Just a really well-pitched game on both ends. We just couldn't quite figure that guy out, with good explanation. The changeup he was featuring was filthy. The fastball had a lot of life to it, and we had a tough time laying off. And the changeup, you could see it after he struck guys out, how it just wiped out, bottomed out the way it was."
McCann awakens at plate: McCann entered the series batting just 4-for-36 since his return from the disabled list and took early batting practice with manager Brad Ausmus on Friday to figure out what wasn't working. After an RBI single Friday night and a bloop single in Saturday's fifth inning, he crushed an 88-mph 3-1 fastball deep to left-center field for his first home run since September.
"I was just looking for a good pitch to hit," McCann said. "[A] 3-1 [count], go-ahead runner on first base, he didn't want to walk me. I was just looking for a pitch out over the plate that I could do some damage with." More >

Kiermaier injured: Kiermaier had to leave the game when he attempted a diving catch on McCann's shallow fly ball to center field in the fifth. As he closed on the ball, Kiermaier dove at the last second and appeared to have made the catch. But the ball popped loose, and the Rays' Gold and Platinum Glove center fielder came up writhing in pain, having broken two bones in his left hand. He will be re-evaluated Monday.

Just kind of quieted our whole dugout," Cash said. "I think everyone knows the kind of energy he brings to the team on a daily basis, so we'll kind of have to work together to get through that a little bit." More >

Fulmer finds K's when he needs them: Though Evan Longoria eventually turned on a Fulmer fastball for a tying homer in the sixth, the rookie hurler escaped key jams earlier by striking him out on secondary pitches. His first-inning slider hit the outside corner for a called third strike with a runner on third and one out, helping Fulmer overcome a leadoff double from Brandon Guyer. Two innings later, Fulmer changed speeds on Longoria to send him down swinging and strand Miller on second.

"He was outstanding," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "That's the best we've seen him." More >
Longo goes deep: Longoria's solo homer with two outs gave the Rays slugger eight home runs for the season. The blast also gave Longoria 500 career extra-base hits, making him the first player in team history to reach that plateau.
"I wish it would have come on a better day," Longoria said. "It's a cool achievement overall."
"I got the chills coming off the mound in the seventh, all the fans on their feet. I'm blessed and I'm honored to finally pitch at home." -- Fulmer, on his first outing at Comerica Park
"I like to have a short-term memory. Especially right now. I, of all people, have to. It's just one of those things. You give up a home run, move on. You can't take it back. There are no time machines in this game." -- Geltz, on whether giving up four homers this month, and six overall, has affected his confidence
Fulmer became the fourth Tigers pitcher since 1913 to strike out 11 or more batters in one of his first five Major League appearances, joining Jack Morris (July 31, 1977, at Texas), Denny McLain (Sept. 29, 1963, at Baltimore) and Ralph Comstock (Sept. 1, 1913, vs. St. Louis Browns).
Rays:Chris Archer (3-4, 4.38 ERA) will start the 1:10 p.m. ET series finale with the Tigers on Sunday, hoping to continue his good work at Comerica Park, where he is 1-0 with a 2.16 ERA in one career start. How he does in the first inning could determine how he fares, as he owns a 10.00 ERA in the first inning this season.
Tigers:Jordan Zimmermann (6-2, 2.45) takes the mound looking for a second straight win, but hoping to rebound after giving up seven earned runs in as many innings against the Twins on Monday at Comerica Park.
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Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast.

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for since 2005.