Detroit — If you look at the record, you would think Michael Fulmer has struggled mightily in the first half of the season.
He really hasn't.
He was on the hook for the Tigers' 3-0 loss to the Rangers on Sunday. It was his eighth loss of the season with just three wins. The Tigers are 5-13 in his 18 starts.
But so many of those losses were similar to this one — done in by a lack of offensive support and one or two rough or tough-luck innings.
"It's tough because I am feeling healthy and I feel a lot better about how I'm pitching," he said. "My pitches are doing what I want them to do. My sinker is getting down in the zone, my change-up has gotten better to where I am getting swings and misses and ground balls.
"The stuff off the bats is what I want to see, so it's hard to get frustrated and try to change things. Just stay the course."
Fulmer went seven innings Sunday. He allowed three runs (two earned), all in the first two innings, and five hits with six strikeouts.
"They didn't hit him hard, by any means," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "But he hung in there for us, got deep in the game, saved our bullpen and gave us a chance. But we only got four hits ourselves."
Run support has been an issue for Fulmer. The Tigers had averaged 3.03 runs in his previous starts, a number that will go down after Sunday. (It didn’t help that leading hitter Nick Castellanos was scratched before the game with mild soreness in his left wrist.)
"I can only control things I can control," Fulmer said. "Their pitchers were on their game today, I can't control that. Hitting is tough, especially with a guy who changes speeds and changes arm slots and keeps you off-balance.
"Their guy was just better than me today."
Four singles were all the Tigers mustered against four Rangers pitchers. Only one baserunner got as far as second base.
"Their guy just spun it up there and threw all kinds of stuff at us," Gardenhire said. "He didn't give us much of a chance. It was kind of a down day for us where nothing really clicked."
The Tigers were stymied by Rangers starter Austin Bibens-Dirkx and his five-pitch mix, velocity ranging from 80 to 90 mph, which he threw from different arm angles and with different delivery speeds.
He faced the minimum 15 hitters through five innings. The Tigers had one hit total over the last three innings off relievers Jose Leclerc (five strikeouts in the six batters he faced), Jake Diekman and Keone Kela.
In all, Tigers hitters fanned 12 times.
All the fatal damage against Fulmer came early.
Jurickson Profar hit a solo home run in the first, flipping a 1-2 slider, which was located down and away, into the seats in right field.
The second inning could have, and maybe should have, gone a lot worse for the Tigers.
Fulmer walked Joey Gallo to start the second inning and gave up singles to Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Ronald Guzman — 2-0.
No. 9 hitter Carlos Tocci then bunted. Fulmer fielded it and his throw hit Tocci on the helmet as he was crossing first base. The umpires ruled interference on Tocci, which took a run off the board.
The play was not subject to video review and Rangers manager Jeff Banister got himself ejected arguing the umpires’ decision — which was dubious, to say the least.
That run would eventually score, though. A ground ball by Shin-Soo Choo got under first baseman John Hicks’ glove, scoring Kiner-Falefa.
Fulmer got stingy, and efficient, after that. It took him 46 pitches to get through the first two innings, 53 to work from the third through the seventh.
"Stuff-wise, it was some of my better stuff," Fulmer said. "I just tried to attack the zone and get quick innings. I thought we did a good job getting weak contact and being a lot more efficient."
The Tigers nearly ended Choo’s franchise-record streak of reaching base safely. It came down to his final at-bat in the ninth and he rolled an infield single. He's reached safely in 47 straight games. He passes Julio Franco in the Rangers’ record books.