'Frustrating': White Sox rally, spoil Martinez's homer
Chicago — You talk about a mood change.
The Tigers were all high-fives and smiles after Victor Martinez pounded a 92-mph fastball some 416 feet, well beyond the left-field fence, giving them a 2-1 lead in the top of the ninth inning.
In a matter of minutes, though — three White Sox hitters later, in fact — they were all hang-dogged and hushed.
"It happens," Martinez said after the White Sox rallied against closer Shane Greene and beat the Tigers, 4-2, Monday. "It's not the first time and it won't be the last time, either. Shane has been great for us all season long.
"He's only human."
Daniel Palka, who earlier knocked Tigers starter Michael Fulmer out of the game with a line drive off his shin, led off the bottom of the ninth with a line-drive home run on a 2-2 pitch from Greene.
"He threw it right down the middle," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He had two strikes on him. You could bounce the ball, you can do all kinds of things. But he threw it right down the middle and up."
After giving up a singled to Welington Castillo, Greene got another pitch up and out over the plate. Matt Davidson pounded the game-winner, again to left field.
Both home run balls were two-seam fastball that stayed up.
"I felt great, you just can't throw it there," said Greene, who has five blown saves and and six losses this season. "Sometimes they go over the fence. Sometimes they go to the warning track. Today they went over the fence."
The two home runs certainly cast a pall on what had the makings of a real encouraging win for the Tigers.
"Frustrating," Gardenhire said. "It was a frustrating ballgame. The home run by Victor, everybody was fired up and then we just give it up."
Wasted was Fulmer's best outing in months. The Tigers ace gave up a home run to Nicky Delmonico on his first pitch of the game and then nothing but four harmless walks through 5.2 innings.
"All the mechanical adjustments we've made over the past couple of weeks, I didn't trust them at first, and I was still flying open (with his front shoulder in his delivery)," Fulmer said. "I came back inside and looked at the video and sure enough, I was flying open. So I closed it right off and I started to get weak contact."
Fulmer had struck out Omar Narvaez to lead off the sixth inning, his fifth strikeout. Then Palka laced a 2-2 fastball up the middle. The ball left his bat at 115.6 mph and hit Fulmer flush on the right shin, caroming to first baseman Niko Goodrum, who converted the out.
Fulmer was at 96 pitches and working his last inning, but he was pulled without even throwing a test pitch.
"He got hit pretty good," Gardenhire said. "That was probably going to be his last hitter anyway. He was getting up to 98 pitches."
The Tigers preliminary report called it a shin contusion and Fulmer said he doesn't expect to miss a start.
"I couldn't feel anything at first," he said. "It was numb and throbbing. Now it's just stiff. It's been better and it's also been worse. I am happy it's not too bad. Everything checked out OK.
"The strength is still there. There's just a big welt on it. It could've been a lot worse."
Even with the abrupt and painful ending, it was an encouraging effort. Fulmer was coming off a nightmarish seven-run, eight-hit, 3.2-inning start in Kansas City. This one was infinitely better.
Fulmer didn’t allow another hit after the home run. The four walks were annoying and elevated his pitch count, but he pitched around them.
"I felt like I was back to old," he said. "I had a little deception. I got a lot of ground balls and weak contact. I am very excited where we're going. I just have to stick to it and trust the process."
Fulmer varied his mix and threw his change-up more effectively than he had in his recent starts. He even varied the velocity on his pitches, particularly his four-seam fastball, which registered between 91 and 97 mph.
He threw 31 two-seam fastballs, 24 four-seamers and 24 sliders. He threw 17 change-ups. In all, he got 16 swings and misses.
And not once, as he pledged, did he shake off a sign from catcher James McCann.
The only run the Tigers got off White Sox starter Reynaldo Lopez was a 403-foot home run by Goodrum leading off the seventh.
Martinez very nearly was scratched from the lineup before the game. He woke up with chills and a nasty headache after the flight from New York. But he told Gardenhire to give him an hour to pull himself together and he answered the bell.
He was asked why it meant something for him to play in this game, despite how badly he felt.
"I don't have anything to prove to anybody," Martinez said. "But I just enjoy playing with these guys. And sometimes you have to do what you can for the team. Unfortunately, we aren't in the race or nothing like that.
"But at some point, these guys in here are going to be in the middle of a race in September. And sometimes you are going to come to the park not feeling great. But I think just from your presence, it can help a little bit."