DETROIT -- Michael Fulmer's shoulder felt fine Saturday after 6 2/3 innings. His pride was hurting instead.
It is a win-loss game with him, even after having his previous turn skipped with a bout of shoulder bursitis. And a pitching duel with Rays All-Star Chris Archer wasn't giving the Tigers sophomore any solace after a 3-2 loss.
"We've gotta win," Fulmer said. "You've gotta pitch to the score. The offense puts up two runs, you've gotta give up less. That's how I look at it. I know I could've been better today, could've made some better-quality pitches. But in the end, it comes down to execution. I wasn't able to execute more than their guy."
He was pitching to the score, outdueling Archer, for six innings. He took the mound for the seventh with a 2-1 lead and a reasonable pitch count, but left with two outs and the eventual winning run in scoring position.
The Rays rallied with a line-drive single sandwiched amid four ground balls. One bounced out of Ian Kinsler's grasp for a game-tying single by Daniel Robertson. Another skipped between Kinsler and Jose Cabrera for Mallex Smith's go-ahead single off Alex Wilson.
The other two ground balls were outs, but they advanced the tying run -- a leadoff walk to Steven Souza Jr. That was what seemed to eat most at Fulmer, who tied his career high with four walks on the day.
Never mind the rust of eight days' rest. He expects better out of himself.
"Obviously the walks, they'll come back to haunt you," Fulmer said.
Souza's pass was the only one that actually scored. But it was also the most frustrating. Fulmer put Souza in an 0-2 count with two sliders -- one Souza chased out of the zone, the other he took for strike two. From there, Fulmer tried to pound Souza inside with fastballs, but couldn't get a chase or a call. The one that was particularly borderline, Souza fouled off.
"Just couldn't put him away," Fulmer said. "Thought I made some decent pitches, but ultimately just gotta attack better there."
That put the bottom half of the Rays' lineup in motion. Fulmer induced consecutive groundouts, but both advanced Souza, putting him at third base with two outs and Robertson up.
"When you go three days without playing catch, it bugs you a little bit and you get out of whack," Fulmer said. "But it shouldn't be an excuse. [I] should've done a better job of throwing quality strikes, and ultimately should've kept the lead there."
In the big picture, though, the Tigers will take it. Fulmer threw 6 2/3 innings with three runs on six hits, walking four and striking out three. He threw fastballs at 97-98 mph, and he allowed a lone extra-base hit -- a one-out double by Colby Rasmus in the fifth inning.
"For having that much time off, he had pretty good command," catcher Alex Avila said. "His slider was hit-or-miss today. He got hurt a couple of times in that inning with a couple of hanging sliders. But other than that, his changeup and fastball were there and he was commanding them pretty well. And overall, I thought he threw a really good game."
It was his best outing since the last week in May. It just wasn't good enough to beat Archer. And for that, he was using his healthy shoulder to carry the burden.