Detroit — This was not the score expected from a Michael Fulmer game: 9-5, with Seattle scoring the nine and the Tigers the five.
But that was Saturday night’s autopsy from Comerica Park after the Tigers, Fulmer and reliever Daniel Stumpf all were beaten up by the Mariners by that gory 9-5 score in the second game of a doubleheader prompted by Friday’s washout.
In the first game, Jose Iglesias’ two-run homer in the sixth, and two RBI singles from rookie catcher Grayson Greiner, melded with six-plus innings of sturdy work by starter Matthew Boyd to give the Tigers a 4-3 victory.
Fulmer had issues with location from the get-go in Saturday evening’s feature bout. He had tension, also, with home-plate umpire Carlos Torres, who got an earful from Fulmer as he left the game in the fifth, all before Torres heard more editorializing from the Tigers dugout by Detroit skipper Ron Gardenhire, which earned Gardenhire his 75th career ejection.
“He got into it,” said bench coach Steve Liddle, who was handed the lineup card after Gardenhire was dismissed. “He saw James (McCann, catcher) and the umpire going back and forth.
“Ronny’s going to protect his players.”
The Tigers, though, had problems in Saturday’s second tussle that offset any squabbles with the judges.
Fulmer threw 31 pitches in the first inning and never quite settled into his customary put-‘em-away mode. Still, he and the Tigers were only down, 3-1, in the fifth until he walked a pair of hitters ahead of a change-up that Robinson Cano drove 419 feet into the right-center field seats to make it a 6-2 game.
“My command was off all game,” said Fulmer, whose ERA a week ago was 2.80 and has since jumped to 4.37.
“But I had zero excuses,” he said, acknowledging that he and Torres had engaged in a less-than-cordial dialogue about strikes-and-balls consistency. “I felt good and my stuff was there. The sinker was moving and the velocity was there.
“But three walks aren’t gonna cut it.”
After the Mariners had pulled ahead, 6-2, the Tigers came back with three runs in their half of the fifth, courtesy of a McCann double, which was followed by John Hicks’ fourth homer of the spring, a blast against the back of the bullpen in left-center field.
Suddenly, it was 6-4. And soon it was 6-5, thanks to some of JaCoby Jones’ ongoing antics after he was hit by a pitch with two gone in the fifth. Pete Kozma, who had doubled home a run earlier, singled to right. Jones loves to run and kept sprinting, past second, on to third — and then by the upraised arms of third-base coach Dave Clark, who stood almost halfway down the baseline, ordering Jones to park at third.
Jones instead sprinted for the plate and was safe when the relay from right-fielder Mitch Haniger was a nanosecond late. Your standard first-to-home score on a single — at least in Jones’ unorthodox book.
“I saw Hanigar pause,” Jones said, explaining his decision to ignore Clark. “I knew I was gonna be safe 100 percent when he paused.”
Did he get any heat from Clark, or from Liddle, for thwarting the stop sign?
“He said, if you see something I don’t, you can go,” Jones explained of his and Clark’s conversation. “But you better be safe.”
Liddle was also grinning afterward.
“You know what?” Liddle asked. “It’s all about being aggressive. There’s a fine line between being aggressive and unwise. But this was something the player instantly saw.
“He was safe — and that makes everybody look good.”
That was it for any Tigers fun at Saturday night’s after-dinner party. Stumpf arrived for the seventh and the Mariners tore into him for four hits and three runs — and a 9-5 lead that was going to remain.
Jones had featured more derring-do in the first duel when, with one on and one out in the ninth of a game the Tigers led, 4-3, he made what might as well have gone down as a game-saving catch — even if it didn’t appear to be a catch.
It came on a diving, sliding stab of Ryon Healy’s short, sinking liner to center. And while it appeared they had a case, the Mariners decided against asking for a replay, which might or might not have been the call had their regular manager, Scott Servais, not been at his daughter’s graduation, replaced by acting skipper Manny Acta.
“We had a bit of miscommunication over the phone, but we’re not going to blame the game on that one,” Acta said afterward. “It needed to be challenged after the fact when I saw it.”
Jones said late Saturday night, with an honorably straight face, that the play was “100 percent a catch.”
His acrobatics were doubly cheered by the Tigers and by closer Shane Greene when Mike Zunino followed with a bloop single to center to put runners at the corners. Greene next walked Ben Gamel, batting .191, on an eight-pitch at-bat that delivered dangerous Dee Gordon, batting .333, with the bases loaded.
On an 0-2 pitch, Gordon rapped a grounder to Hicks at first for an unassisted game-ender.
Jones also had a single and a double as he policed center field with Leonys Martin on the disabled list.
“The jumps on the ball are incredible,” said Gardenhire, talking about Jones’ sprinting, sliding catch in the ninth. “He might do some wacko things once in a while but we love it.”
Gardenhire was not in love with three double-plays in which the Tigers hit in the opener, which is the only reason the Mariners kept matters tight in a game the Tigers outhit them, 12-5.
With Miguel Cabrera on the disabled list, and Victor Martinez resting ahead of the night’s second game, the Tigers were fighting all day for a big hit or big inning that only Iglesias could deliver when, on a 3-2 count, he lined a Marco Gonzales fastball into the left-field seats in the Tigers’ three-run sixth.
Jones had spurred the rally, with two outs, when he lined a double off the knee of Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager.
Greiner followed with a hard ground single to right, scoring Jones. Iglesias then decided the Tigers’ teasing had gone on long enough as he hammered Gonzales’ pitch on a line well beyond the bullpen in left.
Boyd began beautifully, throwing only 35 pitches through a hitless first three innings. He lost command as the game moved on, and he nearly lost the Tigers’ lead.
“He was mad at himself,” said Gardenhire, who had to switch pitchers with two on and none out in the seventh. “He’s very intense. And he knows how to pitch.”
Boyd lasted 94 pitches, 56 of which were strikes. It was his work, early with a slider against the Mariners’ right-handed bashers, that worked artfully in the early innings.
“Yeah, no excuse for that,” said Boyd, who struck out six and walked three. “Just need to be a little sharper and make a few more pitches. “
Boyd is now 2-3 on the year, with a 3.21 ERA.
The Mariners scored a run against him in the fifth on a leadoff walk, a one-out single, and Gordon’s sacrifice fly.
They got two more in the seventh after Boyd hit Seager, the leadoff batter, then was ripped for a double by Healy to put runners at second and third.
He departed and on came Buck Farmer, who got back-to-back groundouts to Hicks, each of which brought home a Mariners run to cut the Tigers’ lead to 4-3.
Joe Jimenez tossed a scoreless eighth (one strikeout, no hits) ahead of Greene’s tense closeout in the ninth.