By Will Burchfield
After being hit harder than he ever has in his MLB career, Michael Fulmer was at a loss.
“Whatever I threw just got hit. I felt like I made some good pitches, I felt like I made some bad pitches and they hit both of them,” said Fulmer, after allowing five runs on nine hits in an 11-4 loss to the Angels on Thursday. “Sometimes you gotta tip your cap to ’em. I don’t know if I was tipping.”
“I can’t explain it, really,” he added.
Fulmer breezed through the first two innings, and entered the fifth having surrendered just one run and three hits. The Tigers were ahead, 4-1.
Then, out of nowhere, the Angels exploded for six hits – five of which game in succession – to take a 5-4 lead and knock Fulmer out of the game. Aside from an infield single by No. 9 hitter Juan Graterol, it was line drive after line drive.
“I don’t mean to say this in a cocky way, by any means, but I’ve just never been hit that hard collectively together like that,” Fulmer said. “So I don’t know, I’m gonna have to go back and watch video tomorrow and see if (I was tipping.)”
Asked if that has ever been an issue for him in the past, Fulmer said, “Last year I did a little bit I feel like. I watched video and tried to incorporate a little glove wiggle, more and more each time, and just tried to change up grips in my glove. I don’t think I was (tipping today), but like I said, I won’t find out until tomorrow and I look at video.”
Fulmer, who stands at 6-4 on the season with a 3.40 ERA, said it was both the quality of contact and the succession of hits that surprised him in the 5th inning.
“A lot of them were singles and I can live with singles, but when they’re strung together like that it’s kind of tough. I just feel like they put some really good swings on good and bad pitches. They took a lot of good pitches, couple sliders, changeups, and I just haven’t really given up that many hits in a row. That’s on me,” he said.
Fulmer induced just four swings and misses on the afternoon, tying a season low.
“They were making contact on him, even early. He wasn’t getting a lot of swings and misses,” said Brad Ausmus. “I just don’t think he had his best changeup and slider, because when he does you see a lot more swings and misses. Even the best pitchers in the game have off days.”
The skipper did not make any reference to Fulmer tipping his pitches.
This is the first time in Fulmer’s career he has allowed five earned runs in back to back starts.
“I think I need to do a better job of mixing up pitches the first time through the lineup and not trying to just use fastballs to blow it by guys. I think if I just focus on getting that hitter out every time up, I think I’ll mix my pitches a little better and ultimately have better success,” Fulmer said.
He suggested he has become a bit too reliant on his heater.
“I think I’m falling into a pattern of maybe throwing too many fastballs, especially inside. I’ve gone in a lot more this year than I did last year. I’m getting the weak contact that I want, but maybe they can tell when I’m going in,” he said.
Still, there is little reason to worry about Fulmer, who has the industriousness – and the arm – to quickly get himself back on track.
“Everybody has these days I feel like. It’s unfortunate to have it, I feel like I let the team down, but ultimately you just gotta tip your cap to those guys,” he said.
Said Ausmus, “This is a blip on the radar. I’m not even remotely concerned about it.”