Detroit — He had that spitfire look in his eyes coming out for the eighth inning.
Newly minted All-Star Michael Fulmer had let a two-run lead slip from his grasp in the seventh, and he wasn’t about to let it happen again — especially not after manager Brad Ausmus had the faith to send him back out there.
“He earned it,” Ausmus would say after the Tigers held on for a 5-3 interleague win over the San Francisco Giants Tuesday afternoon. “His pitch count was low, he still looked good. Let him roll. The truth is, he probably could have gone out for the ninth, too.”
Fulmer went after the top of the Giants batting order like a closer would — pumping upper-90s fastballs and hard sliders at Denard Span, Joe Panik and Hunter Pence. The inning was over in 12 pitches, three roll-over groundouts.
“I knew I needed to buckle down,” said Fulmer, who had given up a two-run home run to Brandon Crawford in the seventh that tied the game 3-3. “I was 2-0 on Crawford and I hung a change-up — and he didn’t miss it. But the offense had my back and they got those two runs right back for me.
“That gave me the confidence going back out for the eighth.”
Closer Justin Wilson blew through the middle of the Giants order in the ninth to record his ninth save.
“It’s special to watch Fulmer go like that,” Wilson said. “It makes you want to finish the game for him.”
Funny, that’s exactly what Justin Upton was thinking after the Crawford home run. He wanted a chance to pick Fulmer up.
“We’ve wasted a few of his good outings this year (with no run support),” Upton said. “To see him continue to go out there and give us a chance to win, and for us to get one for him was nice.”
Upton, back in the lineup after missing three games with soreness in his right side, laced a two-out, two-run single off reliever George Kontos in the bottom of the seventh inning, which proved to be the winning blow.
Upton also had a pair of doubles and scored a run.
“The one thing that changes karma is winning,” Ausmus said. “All you have to do is win a few games. We seem to get going in that direction and we take a step back … We’ve got six games before the break — we’ve got to do something before the break.”
It was an odd start for Fulmer. He seemed out of sorts early, missing his location and falling behind hitters. He went 2-0 on the first three batters of the game. He survived the first two, but Pence tomahawked a high, 97-mph fastball on a 2-0 count and blasted it over the wall in right-center field.
“Again, I fell behind 2-0,” he shrugged. “He’s a good high-ball hitter and I was trying to go down and away.”
Pence's home run snapped Fulmer’s MLB-best homer-less streak of 73⅔ innings. He hadn’t allowed a home run since April 29. The Giants hit four other balls that were caught on the warning track in the first three innings.
“I didn’t feel too comfortable the first few innings,” Fulmer said. “I did some towel drills in the dugout to loosen up more and I finally started finding the bottom of the strike zone. There was definitely a lot of hard contact today, but, as always, the defense was great.”
He settled in nicely, dispatching 11 straight hitters until Brandon Belt lined a double in the seventh. Crawford followed with the game-tying home run.
“Every time out I want to put up zeros,” said Fulmer, who is now 8-6 on the season. “But a win is a win. It doesn’t matter how you get it.”
The Tigers early lead came courtesy of Victor Martinez. He had been 2-for-20 since coming off the disabled list, but whacked a solo home run in the second inning and an RBI single in the fourth off Giants starter Matt Cain.
“I was just happy to do something to help the team get a win,” Martinez said. “That 2-for-20 shows I wasn’t swinging the bat too good. I was swinging it pretty decent before I went on the DL, but not since I’ve come back.
“We will see what happens after today. This was definitely a good game for the team, being back on the good side and winning a ballgame. That’s what matters.”
The home run, a liner into the seats in right, was his first since May 31.
“I would love to see Vic get rolling,” Ausmus said. “He’s a very dangerous hitter when he’s rolling. And he makes pitchers work. It would be enormous for us if he got hot.”
Miguel Cabrera came out of the game after the sixth inning, complaining of tightness in his lower back and right hip. Both he and Ausmus said they expect him to be back in the lineup Wednesday.
“We still have a long way to go,” Martinez said. “We have to battle. I’ve been through a lot in this game — there is a lot of baseball left.”