'One step forward, two steps back': Tigers' Fulmer tagged for 7 extra-base hits in rout
Kansas City, Mo. — By the time the game ended and he had a chance to cool down and go over the video of his rocky outing Wednesday, Michael Fulmer was able to put things into some kind of perspective.
"Every time I go out there, my job is to give my team a chance to win," he said, after the Tigers lost for the fifth straight time, 9-2, to the Kansas City Royals. "Today, I wasn't able to do that. But I am healthy and my goal is to finish the year strong.
"It just seems like all year I've taken one step forward and two steps back. I just have to keep working, keep trying to get better."
Fulmer has been hit around at various times this season, but the former American League Rookie of the Year was bludgeoned by the Royals Wednesday.
He gave up seven runs and eight hits and didn’t survive the fourth inning.
"They pretty much hit everything he threw," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He said he thought he was making pitches and they were putting the barrel to them. Just a good day for their offense against a guy who throws pretty good."
Fulmer gave up two home runs — to Adalberto Mondesi and Alex Gordon. He gave up two triples — to Hunter Dozier and Mondesi. And he gave up three doubles — two to No. 9 hitter Drew Butera and another to Brett Phillips.
Of the 15 balls the Royals put in play against Fulmer, eight left the bat with an exit velocity of 98 mph or better.
"I think they just had a good game plan of just sitting on my fastball," Fulmer said. "They knew I was going to throw it eventually ... I got ahead of a lot of guys, I threw a lot of strikes. My stuff was OK for the most part.
"I can live with my mistakes getting hit. Both home runs were on pitches outside the strike zone — one was up (Gordon's) and one was down (Mondesi's). But it was the good pitches that I made that were getting hit, too."
Four-seam fastball, two-season fastball and slider — the Royals were on and did damage against all of Fulmer’s primary pitches. But here's an indication of how well they were hunting his fastball: He threw seven change-ups and got three swings and misses. He threw 45 fastballs and got two swings and misses.
"I didn't feel good warming up and I told Rick (Anderson)," Fulmer said. "I felt like I was aiming it a bit and I think maybe that cause some of those pitches to flatten out."
Some perspective: This was the fifth start this season that Fulmer has allowed five or more runs. He is just the ninth starting pitcher this season to allow seven extra-base hits in a game and the first Tigers starter to do since Nate Robertson in 2008.
"You can get frustrated with the results and obviously, I am not happy with them," Fulmer said. "But I just think that you have to tip your cap sometimes. They had a good game plan of sitting on fastballs."
The Tigers offense didn’t put up much of a fight, against starter and left-hander Danny Duffy or the Royals bullpen. They got two singles in the first inning, including an RBI single by Mikie Mahtook.
That was it. Duffy didn’t allow another hit (two walks) from the second inning through the sixth. Those two singles were all the Tigers had on the board until Mahtook hit his fifth home run in the ninth.
Mahtook, who spent the majority of the season in Toledo after a horrendous start, has been playing good baseball the past few weeks.
"It's just confidence," Gardenhire said. "He's been up and down so many times, the last time he went down he finally found his swing and he putting better swings on the ball now. He's done it up here before. He knows he can do it.
"We just have to keep him going."
Mahtook has reached base safely in 14 straight games and all five home runs have come in those 14 games. And on Wednesday he threw out a runner at the plate in the seventh inning.
Dozier tagged from third on a medium-depth fly ball by Mondesi (who finished with four RBIs). Mahtook lined it up perfectly and fired a strike on a hop to catcher Grayson Greiner to nail Dozier easily.
Shortstop Jose Iglesias left the game in the fourth inning with a lower-ab strain.
The Tigers will take their five-game skid into the Bronx for four games against the Yankees.