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Offense unable to back Fulmer's strong start

Tigers competing despite tough two losses
April 1, 2018

DETROIT -- A game after the Tigers scored 10 runs and lost on Opening Day in a five-hour marathon, they yielded a lone run and lost in their next.They're competing, evidenced in Sunday's 1-0 loss to the Pirates as in Friday's 13-10 defeat in 13 innings. Through two games, at

DETROIT -- A game after the Tigers scored 10 runs and lost on Opening Day in a five-hour marathon, they yielded a lone run and lost in their next.
They're competing, evidenced in Sunday's 1-0 loss to the Pirates as in Friday's 13-10 defeat in 13 innings. Through two games, at least, they're not getting what they need to win. At least Sunday's loss left them with little time to well before playing again, thanks to a day-night doubleheader.
"It's baseball," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "That's what happens in this game. That's I guess why we love the game. We don't really love five-hour games, but we love the game. It's gonna happen and you just have to live with it.
"That was an exciting game when it's 10-10, and this was a really exciting game. One big play and you turn the game right around. Unfortunately for us, we couldn't come up with one big one."

Two days after Detroit and Pittsburgh slugged out a football score, they had a stingier rematch on a chillier afternoon at Comerica Park. While Pirates starter Trevor Williams walked five batters over six hitless innings, Michael Fulmer walked two and paid dearly for a leadoff pass with a first-inning run that stood as the lone tally of the afternoon.
"It's just tough," Fulmer said. "You get out there and you're amped up the first inning, I felt like I was hitting my spots well and just got that walk and then left a front-door sinker with too much of the plate and Gregory Polanco hit it down the line. But other than that, everything was good."
Though Jordan Zimmermann pitched Opening Day, Fulmer is realistically the ace, the pitcher to which the rebuilding Tigers will more likely turn to help end losing streaks. If the third-year right-hander can deliver more outings like Sunday's eight innings of one-run ball, they'll take their chances of pulling out more of them. His fastball averaged 94 mph and topped out at 96, while his retinkered slider drew three of his six swinging strikes for the game.
"I thought he threw the ball great, even that first inning," catcher John Hicks. "The zone today was tight for both teams. The first batter of the game, he threw two balls I thought could've been called strikes, ends up walking him. But he threw the ball great. He bounced back after giving up a run in the first and dominated after that."
The Tigers could never get Fulmer back to even. Though Williams set a career high in walks while throwing just 42 of his 85 pitches for strikes, Detroit's lineup struggled to make solid contact against him. Nicholas Castellanos broke the drought with one out in the seventh, ripping a double into the left-field corner off reliever Michael Feliz, but advanced no further.

"It was really just sinker, changeup and four-seam moving around the plate to both sides and just keeping guys off-balance," Williams said. "It wasn't big velo today. Guys, I think their eyes started getting big. You just have to kind of pitch to that."
Cold temperatures, starting at 36 with first pitch and finally crossing 40 in the later innings, didn't help the bats. But considering pitchers had to find a grip on the ball, it wasn't an overwhelming advantage.
"I've seen it all kinds of ways, where hit parades come in this kind of weather, too," Gardenhire said. "This was just two really good pitchers out there that had their stuff today and got us out."
Hicks holds damage: The Pirates had chances to tack on runs beyond Polanco's baserunning, but three double plays and another runner thrown out at third base kept it a one-run game. Josh Bell thought he had a chance to get in position for a sacrifice fly when Fulmer's breaking ball to Corey Dickerson hit the dirt, but the bounce went straight up to Hicks, who easily threw out Bell at third.

Cabrera keeps it close: While Jose Cabrera's rediscovered health didn't show at the plate Sunday, his quick reactions at first base resulted in two quick grabs of line drives early, followed by a rangy stop that saved two runs in the ninth on Dickerson's sharp grounder with runners at second and third.

"Both pitchers did a super job. It's just one of those ballgames. They made pitches. They really kept us off-balance. Tip your hat to him, he pitched his tail off." -- Gardenhire, on the pitchers' duel
According to Baseball-Reference, the 1-0 loss was the first suffered by the Tigers in the first or second game of a season since April 13, 1976, when the Brewers blanked them in the second game of the year at Tiger Stadium. The only other occurrence since 1908 was the season opener in 1943, when the Indians blanked them in Cleveland.
According to research from STATS, Sunday's Pirates-Tigers twin-bill marked the earliest doubleheader by date in Major League history.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.