KANSAS CITY -- A few hours before the Tigers’ 10-3 win on Monday over the Royals, Detroit activated reliever Michael Fulmer from the injured list. By optioning infielder Isaac Paredes to Triple-A Toledo instead of another pitcher, manager A.J. Hinch ensured he had an 11-man bullpen.
Little could Hinch have imagined when he made the move that he would use virtually every reliever he had available -- and that he’d do it in a victory.
“I don’t think I’ve ever managed a game where multiple pitchers have come off the mound with injuries,” Hinch said. “I’m sure I’ve used eight or nine pitchers in a game before. I’m managing in the [21st] century; that’s sort of the norm for guys. But it’s tough when you have to ask the entire bullpen.”
The sight of Matthew Boyd walking off the mound at Kauffman Stadium with head athletic trainer Doug Teter, heading to the training room to get his arm checked out, was a frightening sight for many Tigers fans. But it had to be terrifying for Hinch, who used six pitchers in a bullpen game Sunday, and used catcher Jake Rogers and infielder Harold Castro to pitch Saturday.
Boyd exited with left arm discomfort in the third inning and was taken for further examination. Reliever Alex Lange, who grew up in nearby Lee’s Summit, Mo., saw his homecoming ruined when he left with right shoulder discomfort in the fifth inning. Lange was Detroit’s fourth pitcher of the game.
Somehow, Hinch had to cover innings with an already taxed bullpen. Even with a comfortable lead that began with a four-run opening inning, it was a daunting task. Somehow, the Tigers made it work.
“You give credit to A.J. there, just kind of managing, trying to keep guys fresh as much as he can,” Fulmer said. “He didn’t have too many options with everybody throwing the last four or five days. Just hat’s off to him for managing the way he has.”
The Tigers set a team record by using nine pitchers to win a nine-inning game. They had used eight pitchers in a nine-inning win on at least four occasions, most recently on April 23, 2019, against the Red Sox.
Third inning: Boyd exits, Jiménez enters
Boyd allowed five hits over 2 1/3 innings but had a scoreless performance thanks in part to Joe Jiménez, who began last year as Detroit’s closer but started this season at Triple-A Toledo. He stranded two inherited baserunners in his fourth outing in five days.
“It was probably completely unfair to use [Kyle Funkhouser] and Joe tonight,” Hinch said. “Both were not guys that I wanted tonight to be anywhere near [pitching]. But they both came in and logged their partial innings.”
Fourth inning: Foley gives up a run
Undrafted rookie Jason Foley, who made his Major League debut eight days earlier, allowed a run on two hits but escaped further damage with three groundouts. His velocity dropped on his sinker as the inning went on, but he made it through. He was optioned to Triple-A Toledo after the game.
Fifth inning: Enter Funk
Once Lange left with one run allowed on two hits, Funkhouser -- who started Sunday’s game and threw 33 pitches -- entered with two runners in scoring position and stranded both. He struck out Kelvin Gutierrez with a 94 mph fastball.
“I worked out today, did my throwing and all that, and I told [pitching coach Chris] Fetter, ‘I feel pretty good today,’” Funkhouser said. “And he goes, ‘You had a pretty big day yesterday. You’ll probably be a 9-1-1 emergency-type guy today.’”
Sixth inning: Cisnero picks up Farmer
Buck Farmer, who hit two batters and gave up a walk in his return to the Tigers on Sunday, recorded two outs and allowed a run in the sixth.
He might have had a clean inning if not for a ground ball that deflected off third baseman Harold Castro’s glove for a double. José Cisnero stranded the bases loaded, walking Jorge Soler but retiring Hunter Dozier.
“The way you come back from a big deficit is a big hit where you can score multiple runs,” Hinch said. “Both Funkhouser and Cisnero had to get themselves out of those type of situations where -- one big swing and 7-2 turns into 7-5 or 7-6.”
Seventh inning: Cisnero stays on
At that point, the Tigers had their late-inning bullpen set up. Cisnero had a low pitch count and stayed in, allowing a leadoff double but retiring the Royals from there.
Eighth inning: Enter Fulmer
Fulmer hadn’t pitched in two weeks, but he was Hinch’s best option for the top of the Royals’ order. His first pitch was a 98 mph fastball. He allowed a Whit Merrifield leadoff single before retiring the middle of the lineup in order.
“I felt great,” Fulmer said. “Just a little hot, a little sweaty. Trouble gripping a few pitches there, but ultimately after a two-week layoff, being able to throw strikes was the biggest thing.”
Ninth inning: D-No finishes it
Though Gregory Soto was available and was warming in the eighth in case of trouble, he threw 21 pitches Sunday. With Detroit up seven runs, Daniel Norris got the chance to work out his recent struggles. He allowed a Soler leadoff single but struck out Gutierrez and Edward Olivares to end it.