Houston — Michael Fulmer typically is more diplomatic, but he could not contain his frustration Saturday, after he was knocked out of the game in the fifth inning in the Tigers' 9-1 loss to the Astros.
"The guy was god-awful today," he said, speaking of home-plate umpire Pat Hoberg. "It was a bad day for him and for me."
Fulmer's line was ugly — 4⅔ innings, 10 hits, seven runs, including back-to-back home runs by Josh Reddick and Evan Gattis that hastened his exit in the fifth inning. His frustration, though, which was palpable, was with Hoberg and his small and inconsistent strike zone.
"You can't give a team like the Astros extra strikes," he said. "And that's just what it boiled down to."
Fulmer said after reviewing the video, he found 10 pitches inside the strike zone that Hoberg called balls. He threw just 33 balls in 88 pitches.
"I let him know after I watched all of them, I let him know he missed 10 pitches," Fulmer said. "All he could say was, 'I apologize.' I asked him why he didn't make the adjustment and he said, 'What do you want me to do?'
"I said, 'Make the adjustment after the first couple.' He told Mac (catcher James McCann) all game that he missed pitches. He said, 'I apologize, I am having a bad day.'"
The trickle down from that, Fulmer said, was severe.
"You got Mac all frustrated because he thinks he's not catching the ball very well," Fulmer said. "You got me frustrated because I feel like I have to catch more plate with my pitches. It changes the game. It changes the count, the pitch selection, the location.
"Overall, my stuff was good today."
Asked if this was as frustrated as he's gotten with an umpire in a game, Fulmer said, "This was the worst I've seen by far. But he won't get punished, I guarantee you that. I just wish they had more pride and accountability with their strike zone.
"He knows he messed up and got everybody rattled."
It's hard to argue the strike zone in a 9-1 loss, for sure. Especially in a game where the Tigers scored one run and managed just three hits. The one run, on an RBI double by McCann in the sixth, snapped a 19-inning scoreless drought.
"I know we are frustrated from our side of things," McCann said. "I also know it was going both ways. It's not like he had a big zone for them and a tiny zone for us. And Pat, he wasn't rude about it. It is what it is.
"If you have a guy with a big strike zone, you have to adjust. If you have a guy with a small strike zone, you have to adjust. We didn't make the adjustment."
The adjustment, though, was to throw pitches over the heart of the plate, which is death against the best offensive team in the American League.
"That's the tough part," McCann said. "In my opinion, it wasn't borderline pitches not going our way, it was blatant strikes not going our way. And that was consistent to both sides.
"Trying to navigate through the lineup they have, you can't give them four or five strikes in an at-bat. I don't care who the hitter is. If you give them four or five strikes, you're going to greatly increase the odds of giving up a hit."
This was the Tigers sixth straight loss and Fulmer's ninth on the season. They are now an almost incomprehensible 5-14 in Fulmer’s 19 starts.
"He's been doing pretty good," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He's been going deeper into games. We will live with that. He's had a good first half. His numbers might not show it, but I think he's come a long way and I look forward to him being better in the second half.
"He's our guy. He's our big shooter. It didn't work out today, but he's given us a chance to win most of the time."
Gardenhire would like to see Fulmer rein in his emotions a little better, though.
"It's part of pitching, you have to handle these things," he said. "You have to take a step back. You get frustrated with the strike zone, yes. It wasn't great today. There were pitches missed. But it's not an easy job when you've got two guys throwing 95-96 mph and sliders in the dirt.
"(Hoberg) knew he missed pitches and he admitted it. You have to live with it. If you are a player, you have to fight through it and not let it overtake you. He let it get him out of whack a little bit."
Fulmer's name continues to surface in trade rumors — Dodgers, Cubs, Braves, to name a few — but his value may have plummeted. It might be a smarter play for the Tigers to revisit trading Fulmer in the offseason.
"Not at all," Fulmer said when asked how much he was paying attention to the trade talk. "I'm just trying to be selfish, really, trying to get better numbers for myself and get wins for the team. Obviously, my record isn't very good.
"It's not like me. I am used to keeping the team in the game. With the way this team fights and are never out of a game, I need to do a better job of limiting the damage."
The Tigers are 4-20 since climbing to within a game of the .500 mark on June 17. They have lost 14 of their last 16 road games.
And, for kicks, they get to face former teammate Justin Verlander in the finale Sunday.