More penalties for Victor Martinez? Tigers can't be sure
Detroit — The Tigers bid an early good night Saturday to four of their flock, all courtesy of home plate umpire Mike Everitt’s thumb, during a 3-2 loss to the Los Angeles Angels at Comerica Park.
It was the dismissal of their designated hitter, Victor Martinez, that stood as the night’s most volatile moment and most surprising event, given Martinez’s past conduct.
When he was thumbed for arguing a called strike in the third, it was only the fourth time in his 13-year career Martinez has been expelled.
The man known for his customary serenity went nuclear against Everitt, jawing with him in a long, extended tirade, with Ausmus holding back his 37-year-old slugger as the exchange became more heated and animated.
Martinez eventually was coaxed into the Tigers dugout. But moments later his helmet shot from the dugout, sailed high into the air, and landed on the grass about 10 yards from home plate. Unfortunately for curious media, Martinez had departed the clubhouse and wasn't available after the game for thoughts or explanations about any of Saturday's events.
“I’ll give veterans a little leeway when they’re talking to the umpires,” said Ausmus, explaining why he didn’t immediately intervene when Martinez and Everitt began squabbling.
Ausmus didn’t elaborate on what, if any, more serious consequences might follow Martinez’s helmet-launch.
“We’ll deal with that,” Ausmus said, “if there are any.”
Ausmus chalked up J.D. Martinez’s ouster to the same issue: a home plate umpire with whom the Tigers were having issues, early and often.
“Again, if he (Everitt) is going to call those pitches on our hitters,” Ausmus said, “we need those pitches called on their hitters. That’s really the gripe. Simple as that.”
Only because he is Michael Fulmer and deep, deft starts have been his habit in 2016, did Saturday night’s effort double as something of a Fulmer clunker.
In fact, it wasn’t that bad, the five innings the Tigers’ right-handed rookie worked — and worked is the word — in what turned into a loss that stopped the Tigers’ five-game winning streak.
“He was a little off,” said Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, who decided Fulmer could knock off after throwing 95 pitches. “This was the first time on long rest (five days) he seemed a little rusty. So, I guess the upside is we kept his innings down a little bit.
“He was just pulling stuff. He was real quick out-front, kind of falling toward first base with his head, and yanking the ball.
“We’ve certainly seen him better. But he was able to gut through it.”
Fulmer agreed on all fronts.
“I was out of synch all night,” said Fulmer, whose big mistake was a fastball that No. 9 hitter Kaleb Cowart dropped into the right-field seats for a two-run homer in the third. “I just didn’t have command.”
That was certainly the case with Fulmer’s slider, which typically treats batters to fright night. Tigers pitching coach Rich Dubee had seen from the dugout that Fulmer was having some timing and delivery issues and paid a third-inning mound visit.
“He was saying I needed to stay back, and not be so violent,” said Fulmer, whose season ERA slipped to 2.69. “Tonight my fastball was OK and I threw some OK change-ups, but without that slider it’s going to be a lot tougher to work off two pitches.”
The Tigers had been bashing the ball for much of the past week as they built a five-game winning streak and got ready for Saturday night’s start against a left-hander, Brett Oberholtzer, who arrived at Comerica with a 9.00 ERA.
But of course by mid-game the Tigers were missing their No. 4 and No. 5 hitters, Victor and J.D. Martinez, each of whom was expelled by Everitt.
There were none of the heroics from Justin Upton (0-for-4 after a torrid week), or from James McCann (hot in August). The only Tigers with more than one hit was Victor Martinez’s fill-in, Tyler Collins, who had two singles, and third baseman Casey McGehee who likewise had a pair of singles.
Although he was shut down at the plate, Upton was the night’s defensive whiz when, at the left-field fence in the Angels’ half of the third, he soared, reached, and grabbed what stood to be a three-run homer by Albert Pujols.