DETROIT -- Pitchers have bad days, especially young pitchers. In that sense, Michael Fulmer's sudden downfall Thursday isn't a source of career insecurity. But the good pitchers get good because they limit days like that, which is why Fulmer was left scratching his head after the Tigers' 11-4 loss to
DETROIT -- Pitchers have bad days, especially young pitchers. In that sense, Michael Fulmer's sudden downfall Thursday isn't a source of career insecurity. But the good pitchers get good because they limit days like that, which is why Fulmer was left scratching his head after the Tigers' 11-4 loss to the Angels.
Fulmer had never allowed five runs in back-to-back outings in his professional career, Major or Minor Leagues. But his five runs over 4 1/3 innings Thursday followed last Friday's five runs over seven innings against the White Sox. They came about in different fashions -- he beat the White Sox and didn't allow a big inning -- but the numbers were similar.
Fulmer had completed at least five innings in all but two of his previous 37 starts. He left in the fifth inning last June 22 against the Mariners after hitting back-to-back batters to bring in a run, and his regular-season finale last year against the Indians was shortened by rain.
The second-year big league starter had the long leash of a veteran Thursday, enough to yield six hits and a sacrifice fly in a seven-batter span in the fifth inning. He allowed a run on three hits in the previous four innings combined.
"I felt like I made some good pitches and I felt like I made some bad pitches. They hit both of them," Fulmer said.
He was struggling for an answer why.
"I don't know if I was tipping," said Fulmer, bringing up the topic himself. "Obviously my sinker wasn't sinking much. It was more running. So I got in on a couple guys, they just found holes. Ultimately they hit the ball hard and strung together a lot of hits there in the fifth. Can't explain it, really."
Though he was effective through his first four innings, Fulmer wasn't necessarily deceptive. He had one strikeout, tying his career low in a start, and it came on a second-inning slider in the dirt that Ben Revere chased. It was one of just four swings and misses Fulmer drew in 73 pitches, tied for the lowest whiff total of his career.
"They were making contact on him, even early," manager Brad Ausmus said. "He wasn't getting a lot of swings and misses. I just don't think he had his best changeup and slider, because when he does, you see a lot more swings and misses."
Eventually, those swings became more aggressive, and the results piled up, erasing a 4-1 Tigers lead. No one hit did in Fulmer; the only extra-base hits were doubles from Danny Espinosa in the fourth inning and Eric Young leading off the tumultuous fifth. But the collective damage did him in; they hit fastballs, sliders and changeups.
"Guy like that, track record like that, you've got to give him some rope," Ausmus said. "You certainly don't push the panic button when a guy like that gets a few people on base."
The fact that Fulmer gets that kind of leeway in his second Major League season speaks to what he has done in that time. The fact that Fulmer couldn't work out of it is what makes it so rare.
"I don't mean to say this in a cocky way by any means, but I've just never been hit that hard, collectively like that," Fulmer said. "I don't know. I'm going to have to go back and watch video tomorrow and see. But like I said, you've got to tip your cap to them. They came out very aggressive and didn't really get too many two-strike counts. They were just putting balls hard in play."
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.