Tigers can’t heat up bats, waste ‘efficient, electric’ start from Michael Fulmer

Detroit News

The snow eventually melted, except for some cool-looking whitecaps on the shrubs in straightaway center field.

But the Tigers’ bats remained on ice.

The Tigers managed just three hits against soft-tossing left-hander Tyler Anderson, and the Pittsburgh Pirates held on for a 3-2, seven-inning victory in the opener of a doubleheader Wednesday at Comerica Park.

BOX SCORE: Pirates 3, Tigers 2

It’s the fifth consecutive loss for Detroit, which has scored eight runs total in that span. The Tigers have scored three runs or fewer in 10 of 17 games.

“That was the difference in the game,” said Tigers manager AJ Hinch, who hasn’t managed a skid like this since a seven-gamer with Houston in 2019 — that season ended with a trip to the World Series. “Their offensive approach changed, and we struggled with ours.”

The continued offensive outage wasted a fine effort from Tigers starter Michael Fulmer (1-1), who sat down the first nine batters he faced before getting into some trouble in the fourth. The Pirates scored all three in the fourth inning, mostly on some pretty soft contact. Fulmer needed 31 pitches to get through the first three innings, with a fastball at 95 mph. He needed 29 to get through the fourth.

It could’ve been worse if not for a great diving stop and throw by Tigers rookie third baseman Zack Short, making his major-league debut, to get Colin Moran.

Fulmer said he’d only take back one pitch from the fourth — a back-foot slider to left-handed-hitting Bryan Reynolds that was laced to right for a single and was one of the only hard-hit balls of the inning. Fulmer got ahead of him 0-2. Erik Gonzalez also drove in a run with a two-out, soft looping single to make it 3-1 after Fulmer got ahead of him 0-2, too.

“Everything was good, honestly. I thought some of the best stuff I’ve had all year was today,” said Fulmer, who got a win last time out — his first in 1,035 days.

“The fourth inning, you know, nothing much to say about it. I felt like my command was good that inning. …It was one of those things, do you want to change anything if you’re getting soft contact or groundballs? I didn’t try to change too much. They just put together some good at-bats to muscle it past the infield there.”

After Fulmer got through the first three innings, Tarik Skubal started warming up. He was scheduled to piggyback off either Fulmer or Game 2 starter Spencer Turnbull, and Fulmer was the ideal choice given Hinch wants to start him Sunday on short rest.

But after Fulmer breezed through three, Hinch wouldn’t dare get the hook out.

And even after the Pirates’ three-run fourth, there could be no regrets. It’s not like Fulmer, whose sinker was really working, all of a sudden had lost it.

“His first time through the order, he was really efficient and really electric,” Hinch said.

Skubal started warming up after the third and played catch with left fielder Robbie Grossman before the top of the fourth to get loose, because he wasn’t used to relieving. He eventually came in the top of the fifth, and put up three scoreless innings. He had some command issues, but when he needed to get the big out, Skubal did just that — helped out by second baseman Willi Castro, too.

Fulmer allowed four hits and a walk while striking out three; Skubal had three hits, three walks and two strikeouts.

None of it was enough, thanks to a listless offense that at least got an extra-base hit — their first since last Thursday. They actually got two of them.

The Tigers had taken the lead in the bottom of the third, after Victor Reyes led off with a double (on a generous call from the official scorer), and Short walked. After a JaCoby Jones weak flyout to short left, Reyes stole third with Grossman at the plate. Grossman, after fouling off enough balls to give just about everyone in the ballpark a souvenir, then hit a long flyball to center field for the sacrifice fly and the early 1-0 lead for Detroit

The Tigers scored on Jonathan Schoop’s two-out single in the fourth, just Schoop’s third RBI of 2021. That snapped an 0-for-13 skid, scoring Wilson Ramos, who had a one-out double.

But Anderson (2-2), who thrives on deception with a double-hitch to his delivery and the occasional quick pitch, struck out seven in five innings for the Pirates. He barely touched 90 mph with the fastball.

“That’s a tough thing to time,” Short said.

After Wednesday’s first game, the Tigers activated Turnbull to make his season debut in the nightcap. In a corresponding move, they sent reliever Joe Jimenez to the alternate training site in Toledo. Also, outfielder Derek Hill was called up to be the 27th man for Game 2, and was to start on the bench with Akil Baddoo getting the start in center field.

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Twitter: @tonypaul1984

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