Detroit — It looked like it was going to be a stroll for the Tigers on getaway day.
With an RBI single by Miguel Cabrera, a home run and RBI single by Nick Castellanos, an RBI double by Alex Avila — the Tigers were up 4-1 with Michael Fulmer and his 3.00 ERA and 1.1 WHIP on the mound.
It ended up first being a stumble, then an all-out collapse. Ugly day for the home team.
“Everybody has these days, I feel like,” said Fulmer, who was KO’d by a four-run fifth inning in the Tigers’ 11-4 loss to the Los Angeles Angels on Thursday. “It's unfortunate. I feel like I let the team down. Offense did their job and the defense did their job.
“But, ultimately, you have to tip your cap to those guys."
The Angels, playing without injured star Mike Trout, took two out of three from the Tigers at Comerica Park.
“We lost the series, but it was a 4-2 home stand,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. “It was a good home stand. Could've been a great home stand if we get the win today. But we’ve got a pretty good team in front of us in Boston, so time to turn the page.
“As soon as you guys walk out of my office, I’ll turn the page.”
It will take a little longer for Fulmer to wash this one off. The 4 1/3 innings equaled the shortest outing of his career and he has now allowed five runs in back-to-back starts for the first time.
“Some days, whatever you throw just gets hit,” he said. “I felt like I made some good pitches and I felt like I made some bad pitches. They hit both of them.
“Sometimes you just have to tip your cap to them.”
The unraveling began in the fifth inning. Fulmer gave up five straight hits before he recorded an out. The ambush started with a double by Eric Young, Jr.. Then Danny Espinosa, Juan Graterol, Andrelton Simmon and Kole Calhoun all singled.
After a sacrifice fly by Albert Pujols and another single by Yunel Escobar, the Angels were up 5-4 and Fulmer was back in the clubhouse.
“He was throwing 95-96 mph and his off-speed stuff was fine, like normal,” catcher Avila said of Fulmer’s first four innings. “But going into that inning (the fifth), he lost his command and he couldn’t get his slider over. His change-up was flying arm-side.
“He just didn’t have the command of his pitches that inning and then his fastball flattened out.”
Afterward, Fulmer wondered if he might have been tipping his pitches.
“I don't mean to say this in a cocky way, by any means,” he said. “But I've never been hit that hard collectively, together like that. I don't know. I have to go back and look at video tomorrow and see if I was or not.”
He felt there was a time last season when he was tipping his pitches by the way he was gripping the ball in his glove.
“Yeah, last year I did,” he said. “I watched video and incorporated a glove wiggle and changed the grip in my glove. I didn't think I was (tipping pitches Thursday) but I won't find out until I watch the video.”
Fulmer put down the first six batters he faced, all with fastballs. His troubles started the second time through the order when he began to mix in his secondary stuff.
“I just think I need to mix up my pitches a little better,” he said. “The first time through the order, like tonight, I threw mostly all fastballs and I got ground balls and weak fly balls and I was happy with that.
“Get to the seven-eight-nine guys and they start putting balls in play and they find holes, just being really aggressive. I need to do a better job mixing up pitches first time through the order and not try to use just fastballs to blow it by guys. If I focus on just getting each hitter out every time I will mix my pitches better.”
Fulmer left with runners on the corners and one out. Significantly, or so it seemed at the time, Shane Greene came in and stopped the bleeding right there. He was aided by three clutch defensive plays.
♦Second baseman Ian Kinsler made a long, running catch near the tarp in foul territory to get C.J. Cron. He then had the presence of mind to pivot quickly and throw home, keeping Calhoun at third.
♦Avila made a lunging stop of an errant pitch from Greene, preventing the wild pitch and again keeping Calhoun at third.
♦Center fielder Andrew Romine, after initially misreading a line drive by Ben Revere, reversed course and made a sensational diving catch running toward the gap in left-center. That play saved two runs.
The way the Tigers were swinging the bats early, keeping it a one-run game seemed to bode well. It ended up being a moot point.
The Angels blew the game open off relievers Arcenio Leon and Daniel Strumpf in the seventh — sending 10 hitters to the plate and scoring six more runs.
Leon, who had pitched a clean sixth inning, lost his command in the seventh. He gave up a lead-off double to Simmons (three hits, two RBIs) and walked Calhoun and Escobar before giving up a two-run single to Cron.
Stumpf came on and gave up a walk and RBI singles to Young, Espinosa (three hits, three RBIs) and Simmons.
The Tigers pounded out 15 hits themselves, but didn’t score another run after the fourth. They were 4 for 18 with runners in scoring position. They also struck out 11 times.
Kinsler and Castellanos each had three hits — Castellanos a triple shy of a cycle.
Ausmus was asked for his concern level regarding Fulmer.
“This is a blip on the radar,” he said. “I am not even remotely concerned about it.”