Broomed and doomed: Tigers' offense dormant, Fulmer frustrated as skid hits 9
Detroit — Michael Fulmer spent a good 20 minutes sitting in manager Ron Gardenhire's office after the Tigers' 4-2 loss to the Oakland Athletics Thursday afternoon.
Fulmer's eight-inning performance was the lone bright spot on the day for the Tigers, who were swept at home and have to lug a nine-game losing streak across the border and into a four-game series in Toronto.
Still, he endured his seventh loss. The club is 5-11 in his 16 starts. And as he sat with Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson, he couldn't hide his bewilderment.
"I just asked them, 'You got any suggestions,' " Fulmer said. "Everybody is saying don't change anything. I just have to put up zeroes."
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Truth be told, Fulmer made the one adjustment the Tigers have wanted him to make on Thursday — albeit maybe three innings too late.
"That one inning he was basically trying to muscle through and they scored a few runs," Gardenhire said. "Andy had a little talk with him about pitching — use all of your pitches — and the rest of the way through he did that."
It was the second time Fulmer has gone eight full innings this season, only the third time any Tigers' starter has. He struck out the last batter he faced, Stephen Piscotty, on three 97-mph fastballs, the last one on his 110th pitch.
"I'm tired of saying it, but I thought my stuff was good again today, just didn't get the results I was looking for," Fulmer said. "It's not more frustrating to anybody but myself."
His frustration was palpable in the third inning when the Athletics poked five singles — only one ball hit with an exit velocity above 87 mph — and scored three runs. His body language was so bad, pitching coach Rick Anderson raced out to the mound to buck him up.
He slumped his shoulders again in the fourth inning after he gave up a two-out, RBI double to No. 9 hitter Chad Pinder — four runs, eight hits and 70 pitches through four innings.
"I try never to show too much frustration but when you get four or five of those in a row, it's tough to stay level-headed," he said. "I didn't think I made a mistake over the middle of the plate because I was frustrated. I still made decent pitches.
"They just got the bat on the ball and that's what happens when you put the ball in play."
Fulmer threw mostly two-seam and four-seam fastballs in the first three innings. He didn't throw his change-up until the final pitch of the third inning — the first pitch after Anderson's visit — and got an inning-ending double-play.
"We had a plan to attack with the fastball and he did a really good job early on," catcher James McCann said. "And I don't want to say they started to hit it because they blooped a few in."
Still, between innings, Anderson told Fulmer that he needed to start pitching. That all he was doing was throwing and needed to start using his secondary pitches — the slider and change-up.
"I think part of their game plan was to sit on fastballs and work to the opposite field, especially the righties," Fulmer said. "We made the adjustment and started using the change-up and slider."
Fulmer bowed his neck and allowed just one hit after the fourth inning. He still threw 70 fastballs on the day, but mixed in 24 sliders and 16 change-ups.
"The best thing he did was the in-game adjustment," McCann said. "We started using off-speed stuff more, and he did a great job of competing and getting through eight innings."
Fulmer didn’t get many strikeouts (five), but induced 13 ground-ball outs — no runs, one hit and 40 pitches in his last four innings.
"My game plan was to get deep and we did that," Fulmer said. "Maybe we could've done something different early in the game, but it's tough to say."
Fulmer, as Gardenhire said, gave the Tigers ample opportunity to come back and win the game. But the offense has gone cold. After scoring seven runs in the first four innings on Tuesday, it managed just two runs over the next 23 innings. Insufficient.
"Just keep grinding," Gardenhire said. "We're playing hard and we are in most of the games. We've got to start putting some hits together and we need to get some confidence. Right now we don't have a lot of confidence. We have a lot of guys struggling at the same time.
"And when you have that, this is what you get."
The two runs came in the first inning Thursday on Nick Castellanos’ 11th home run of the season. It was one of the few balls hit hard off A’s starter Sean Manaea. Of the 21 balls the Tigers put in play off the left-hander over six innings, the average exit velocity was 78.3 mph.
They didn't muster a single hit against three A's relievers — Emilio Pagan, Lou Trivino and Blake Treinen.
"What's the (losing) streak? Nine games?" Gardenhire said. "If that doesn't knock your socks off and wake you up, then nothing will."