San Diego — It almost breaks your heart to hear him say it.
“All I know is I’ve had one scoreless outing all year and that needs to change,” Tigers right-hander Michael Fulmer said. “I’m just in a stretch where nothing is good enough. I have to try to be better and put up zeros every inning.”
Fulmer has been more than good enough, but you can’t blame him for thinking only perfection is going to get him a win. The Tigers were shut out for the sixth time this season Friday; losing 1-0 to the third-worst team in baseball — the rebuilding San Diego Padres.
Three of those shutouts came in Fulmer’s starts.
“It’s nobody’s fault,” Fulmer said. “It happens. I am never going to stop believing in these guys in this clubhouse.”
Fulmer put on a power pitching clinic Friday night. His two-seam fastball was ringing the radar gun between 96-99 mph. He was manipulating it to get either sinking action or arm-side run — whichever the situation called for. And he commanded it expertly.
He got 15 swing-and-misses, 12 of them with his two-seamer. On the night, he allowed two hits in seven innings and struck out eight.
And yet, it wasn’t good enough to prevent the Tigers from losing their seventh straight game, their 12th in the last 15.
“We’re just in one of those stretches where nothing is going our way,” Fulmer said. “Every borderline play is going against us right now. We just have to grind through it.”
The Tigers’ somnambulant offense was bedazzled by a right-hander Luis Perdomo — who lost his first 10 starts this season, but tossed six two-hit, shutout innings Friday — and a trio of relievers: Ryan Buchter, Brad Hand and closer Brandon Mauer — who finished what he started.
The Tigers managed a total of three hits.
“I think they are frustrated,” said manager Brad Ausmus, who was ejected in the eighth inning. “I don’t see so much pressing. The energy in the dugout was outstanding. Guys were pulling for each other, cheering for each other. There’s just frustration.
“We’re just waiting for that one thing to turn everything around.”
Their best chance to score came in the eighth inning off left-hander Hand. Pinch-hitter John Hicks won an 11-pitch battle and led off with a double. He stayed there. Ian Kinsler and pinch-hitter Nick Castellanos struck out. Miguel Cabrera grounded out sharply to shortstop Erick Aybar.
Kinsler, wanting to at least move the runner to third with one out, struck out on three pitches. The third strike was a checked swing that first-base umpire Jordan Baker ruled a full swing. Kinsler argued bitterly on his way back to the dugout. Ausmus ran out immediately to take up the argument, and protect Kinsler from ejection.
“I wasn’t real happy with the call on the check swing,” Ausmus said. “I didn’t think Kinsler went and I still don’t think he went after looking at it on the replay. And I certainly didn’t want Kins to get thrown out of the game.”
The Tigers had chances to get to Perdomo early. He walked five, three in the first two innings. But he escaped with ground ball double plays in each inning.
“We’re just trying to have good at-bats,” said Justin Upton, who drew two walks and grounded out sharply to first base with a runner at second in the sixth. “We squared a few balls up. Miggy hit a ball with a runner at second (in the eighth) and I hit a ball with a guy on second and they got caught.”
That allowed the one mistake Fulmer made all night to beat him. It came in the second inning.
With Cory Spangenberg on second and two outs, and the pitcher Perdomo on deck, Fulmer got ahead of No. 8 hitter Austin Hedges 1-2.
“You are trying to make a quality pitch,” catcher Alex Avila said. “It was supposed to be a slider off the plate. If he swings, it will be a swing and miss. If not, it’s a ball.”
But the slider came out of the side of his hand and it stayed up over the middle of the plate. Hedges drilled it into the gap in right-center for an RBI double.
“I knew the pitcher’s spot was up next,” Fulmer said. “That’s why I threw a slider. I meant to bounce it and I left it up. I wasn’t trying to throw it for a strike. But it popped out of my hand a little bit and …”
“This is no more frustrating than I’ve been on this whole road trip,” Avila said. “A loss is a loss, whether it’s 1-0 or 6-0. Michael pitched well. They guys played hard. We just weren’t able to push a run across. We have to come back tomorrow and keep battling.”
Castellanos was a late scratch from the starting lineup with lower back tightness. Ausmus said he was OK to hit or run, but it bothered him in the field moving laterally. He will be re-evaluated Saturday.