On a rather frigid Detroit afternoon, a matchup of two weak lineups boded well for a fast-paced pitcher’s duel, and we got it, for a while. In the end, Michael Fulmer got singled to death in his final inning of work, and that was enough for the Pirates to hold on and win the first game of the doubleheader 3-2.
For the first five half innings of work, Michael Fulmer and Tyler Anderson cruised through the minimum without even much hard contact to speak of. The Tigers finally broke the silence offensively in the bottom of the third. Victor Reyes sprayed a double down the right field line and moved into scoring position when Zack Short, playing third base and making his major league debut, drew a walk in his first big league plate appearance. Reyes stole third base and ultimately scampered home on a Robbie Grossman line out to centerfield, though that was all the Tigers could muster.
For three innings, Fulmer had been a buzzsaw, but in the fourth he caught the splinters. Three consecutive singles, none of them hit particularly hard, kicked off a three-run rally for the Pirates. Fulmer looked a bit uncomfortable out of the stretch, but he and catcher Wilson Ramos also seemed to get far too cute with a Pirates offense that wasn’t putting the ball in play with much authority. Overall, Fulmer’s velocity and secondary stuff looked good again when he was in attack mode, and one less soft single could’ve completely changed his outing.
The Tigers came out in the bottom half of the frame and got one run back, as a one-out double from Ramos led to an RBI single back through the box by Jonathan Schoop.
That was where the score would stay throughout the rest of the seven inning contest. Tarik Skubal came on and spun three scoreless innings despite getting into some trouble in the sixth. The results were fine other than the three walks issued, but he still didn’t look particularly good. He just doesn’t seem to be letting the ball go the way we’re used to seeing. His velocity picked up here and there, but his command was still spotty and the life on his fastball remains wildly inconsistent and lackluster by his normal standards.
Initially, Skubal was slated to piggyback on Spencer Turnbull’s start, but by limiting Fulmer’s outing today, the expectation is that he’ll be able to handle his normally scheduled turn on Sunday. Fulmer only threw 60 pitches in the contest, so presumably the plan is in order.
Unfortunately, hopes that the Tigers offense would find a little spark back home went unfulfilled. They struck out seven times against Anderson’s tricky but rather pedestrian stuff, and the lineup went in order in each of the final three innings with the club needing just two runs to win the game. Their 1-3 hitters accounted for seven of eight total strikeouts for the lineup.
The only bright spot was Short’s debut. The young utiltyman is lauded for his glove, but does a lot fundamentally right despite a mediocre bat. He made a nice diving stop at third base that saved a run, and put together a pair of good plate appearances to draw walks his first two times up. His final time up he lifted a 400-foot flyout to dead centerfield in the seventh to end the game.