ST. PETERSBURG -- The only opponent Michael Fulmer might not solve at this point is the innings watch on him.Six weeks after Fulmer jumped the learning curve with seven dominant innings against the Rays, the Tigers' rookie right-hander did it again at Tropicana Field. His seven shutout innings on two
ST. PETERSBURG -- The only opponent Michael Fulmer might not solve at this point is the innings watch on him.
Six weeks after Fulmer jumped the learning curve with seven dominant innings against the Rays, the Tigers' rookie right-hander did it again at Tropicana Field. His seven shutout innings on two hits with 10 strikeouts, along with Victor Martinez's second two-homer game this week, powered Detroit to its fourth straight victory in a 10-2 runaway over the Rays on Friday night.
Fulmer (8-2), the Tigers' promising young starter, dueled Drew Smyly, Detroit's former promising young starter, for the second time this year. They combined for 10 strikeouts in 20 batters over their first three innings Friday before the Tigers began putting up runs the second time through the order. Nick Castellanos doubled home Cameron Maybin in the fourth inning before Maybin singled home two runs in the fifth, taking advantage of a Brad Miller error. Martinez's three-run homer in the seventh put the game out of reach before he hit another three-run homer in the ninth.
"The home runs are beating us up," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "And especially when they're coming with guys on base. When you give up two three-run homers, you're making it really difficult to win games."
Meanwhile, Fulmer showed little rust from the eight days of rest the Tigers gave him in an effort to watch his innings workload. With a fastball that topped out at 98 mph, a biting slider at 89 and a deceptive changeup, he held the Rays to a second-inning single from Corey Dickerson and a seventh-inning single by Logan Morrison.
• Same opponent, same results for Fulmer
"He looked strong," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "He had his command. He was throwing strikes, kept his pitch count down. He did an excellent job."
With that, Fulmer became the first Tigers pitcher since at least 1913 to allow one or no runs in eight consecutive starts, a roll that began with Fulmer's seven innings of one-run ball and 11 strikeouts to beat the Rays and Smyly on May 21 at Comerica Park.
"It's pretty cool," Fulmer said. "My mind's just to win a ballgame any way I can. So if I can throw up zeros, that's just a bonus. I trust this defense. I trust the catchers. It's a team game. We win as a team, lose as a team. The way we're playing right now, the offense putting up 10 runs tonight, it makes everybody else just relax and have fun."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Maybin makes Rays pay again: One night after Maybin hit a three-run double to complete the Tigers' ninth-inning comeback, he had a hand in each of Detroit's run-scoring rallies Friday. After singling and scoring in the fourth, Maybin battled out of an 0-2 count in the fifth with help from a foul ball that Oswaldo Arcia couldn't run down in right field. With a second chance, Maybin sent a ground ball through the middle to score Mike Aviles and Jose Iglesias for a 3-0 lead.
Defense lacking: The Rays' defensive issues played a huge part in the two unearned runs allowed in the fifth inning. First it was Miller's errant throw to first on a routine grounder. Then it was Hank Conger's inability to throw out a runner on the basepaths. Finally, Arcia overslid a ball in the outfield before the Maybin two-run single.
"There was some weak contact that found hits," Cash said. "There were some plays that we're capable of making that we didn't make behind [Smyly]."
V-Mart loves the Trop: Martinez just missed a mammoth home run leading off the sixth, sending a Smyly pitch off the D-ring catwalk in foul territory down the left-field line. An inning later, he turned around and kept Danny Farquhar's pitch fair, driving it off the C-ring catwalk in right field. Martinez's second homer landed in the front row of the left-field seats. He is batting .368 with 10 homers and 32 RBIs in 42 career games at Tropicana Field.
"I wish I knew [why]," Martinez said, "but everywhere I go, I just try to be a tough out." More >
No Smyles: Smyly was mostly solid, but he had trouble getting the third out of an inning throughout the start. He allowed six runs, four earned, all of which came with two outs. He threw 122 pitches, and his 121st was a wild pitch that scored a run to make it 4-0. He finished with 6 2/3 innings and was outpitched by Fulmer.
"Their pitcher pitched better than I did," Smyly said "Couldn't get anything going."
• Motter pitches in for struggling Rays 'pen
"You just hope you don't go out in a game like that. We're losing big time, and you hate to see a game like that get away from us." -- Rays utilityman Taylor Motter, on having to pitch in the ninth inning
"I saw the ball land on the warning track and I was like, 'What just happened? I thought I crushed that ball.' Then I saw the replay and it hit upstairs." -- Martinez, on his first home run off the catwalk
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Tigers' 10-run outburst marked their third consecutive game in double digits, something they hadn't done in 20 years. Detroit scored double-digit runs in four straight games from July 28 to Aug. 1, 1996. The Rays' bullpen has a 9.74 ERA over its past 16 games, during which Tampa Bay has gone 2-14.
Tigers: Eleven months after Justin Verlander began his resurgence with eight innings and 10 strikeouts to beat the Rays at Tropicana Field, he returns looking to get back to form after a four-homer inning against the Indians last Sunday. Verlander (7-6, 4.30 ERA) gets the start Saturday against the Rays in a 4:10 p.m. ET matchup.
Rays:Blake Snell (1-1, 3.54 ERA) has faced three powerful offenses since being recalled to the Rays' roster. An outing against the Tigers at Tropicana Field on Saturday won't prove to be any easier. The lefty said he's hoping to improve on his fastball command when the two teams square off at 4:10 ET.
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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 listen to his podcast.
Sam Blum is a reporter for MLB.com based in St. Petersburg.