Fulmer's scoreless streak ends at 33.1 innings in loss
Kansas City, Mo. — Truth is, Michael Fulmer was never all that wrapped up in his scoreless innings streak. Winning games is what he wants to do, and if he hangs rows and rows of zeros along the way, all the better.
So when he hung a slider to Salvador Perez of the Kansas City Royals with two outs in the sixth inning Friday, Fulmer’s concern was more about the Tigers trailing 1-0 than his streak ending at 33.1 innings.
“The scoreless streak was nice and everything, but the ultimate goal is to get a team win,” he said. “Unfortunately, I wasn’t good enough to do that tonight.”
Fulmer was plenty good — allowing just the one run through 5.2 innings — but Royals starter Yordano Ventura was better and the Tigers bullpen imploded late.
The Royals scored nine times over the seventh and eighth innings —- five off Blaine Hardy in the eighth — and put away the Tigers in a rout, 10-3.
“For a rookie to do what he did is something special,” catcher James McCann said. “It was fun to be a part of it.”
The 33.1 consecutive scoreless innings is a Tigers rookie record and the longest streak by any Tiger since 1961. It was the second longest scoreless streak by a rookie in the last 45 years, second only to Fernando Valenzuela’s 35 scoreless innings in 1981, according to research by Elias Sports Bureau.
“Defense and catchers, they did everything,” Fulmer said. “I know quite a few plays that could have scored runs and the defense came through. J.D.’s (Martinez) catch against Toronto, J-Up’s (Justin Upton) catch in New York. I got a lot of those defensive gems along the way.”
It was the first run he’d allowed in six starts, dating to the sixth inning of his start against Tampa Bay.
Pretty good run, all told.
“What’s most impressive about it, there were some innings that were tough for him,” McCann said. “Tonight he had second and third with their 3-4-5 hitters coming up and he fought his way out.”
That was in the third. The inning was started with a bloop and a bunt — both singles. The runners were sacrificed to second and third. That brought up Eric Hosmer, then Lorenzo Cain.
“He effectively pitched around Hosmer and he got Cain to ground into a double play,” McCann said. “He looked like a veteran on that. A lot of rookies give in to Hosmer, trying to get him out. He understood there was a base open and the righty on deck was the favorable matchup.
“Just the way he goes about his business is special.”
He retired 10 batters in the row before the Perez home run.
“I knew I threw three pitches and got two outs,” Fulmer said, explaining the Perez at-bat. “In the back of my mind I was thinking he wasn’t swinging. I should’ve done a better job executing my pitch. I made a mistake and he made me pay for it.”
He walked the next two batters and was done after 100 pitches.
“I just got a little amped up after the home run,” he said. “I have to do a better job of settling myself down.”
No jury would convict.
“He pitched outstanding,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “I wish it would’ve lasted longer, but the fact is, the streak was going to end at some point… It was impressive for anyone, but it was even more impressive for a rookie.”
Fulmer was asked if there was any sense of relief, now that the streak is over.
“Not really,” he said. “My goal is to always put up zeros every inning. I’m hard on myself, especially after a loss. I am going to do a better job next time.”
The Tigers didn’t score until the top of the ninth, after they were down 10-0. Miguel Cabrera led off with a home run and Justin Upton hit a two-run homer.