Chicago – With a nine-man bullpen, you wouldn’t expect to get caught up short in a nine-inning game, but there the Tigers were in the seventh inning Friday night against the White Sox.
As the Tigers were storming back from a 7-2 deficit, putting up six runs in the top of the seventh, right-hander Rony Garcia, who had been up in the sixth inning, continued to throw in the bullpen.
After starter Spencer Turnbull left with tightness in his forearm after four innings, manager AJ Hinch had already used Kyle Funkhouser, Joe Jimenez and Tyler Alexander to get to the seventh. Even still, after the Tigers had taken the lead in the top of the seventh, the bullpen seemed set up.
Except, as Hinch said after the game, Michael Fulmer wasn’t available.
“In all transparency, we weren’t going to use Michael tonight, he’s still dealing with fatigue,” Hinch said.
Fulmer hadn’t pitched since May 30, after making six high-leverage outings in 13 days. He and Hinch talked before the game about the soreness and fatigue. But he was expected to be available Friday.
“Before the game we didn’t have the full information,” Hinch said. “We needed to give him another day to rest and get him to the weekend.”
So, as the heart of the White Sox order came to bat in the bottom of the seventh, Hinch’s choices were to stay with Garcia, who had already worked up a lather in the pen, or go to either Jose Cisnero or Gregory Soto.
“We had Garcia up when we were down (in the game) and we felt like we could get him through that part of the order,” Hinch said. “And still, I knew we would have to go through that part of the order again.”
Which proved to be the case in the ninth.
“It became a question of how we were going to piece together the last nine outs once we got the lead,” Hinch said. “And it really fell to Rony. He’s so calm and cool.”
Garcia walked Jose Abreu to start the seventh, with the veteran Abreu taking a couple of close pitches. Then it looked like center fielder Derek Hill bailed him out of the inning when he threw Abreu out at second trying to tag and advance on a fly ball.
The next hitter, though, was the scorching Yasmani Grandal, who’d hit a home run earlier in the game. He locked onto a slider that backed up over the plate and sent it into the seats in right center.
“Just when you think you escaped a near home run, you get two outs and nobody on,” Hinch said. “And then Grandal hits the homer. The rollercoaster ride in this park when it plays like an offensive park is tough.
“But it’s not just about the park. It’s about those dudes on the other side who have bats in their hands.”
Not having Fulmer impacted the ninth inning, too. Cisnero pitched a clean eighth inning and Hinch sent him back out for the ninth, with switch-hitting Yoan Moncada and right-handers Jose Abreu and Yermin Mercedes due up.
Hinch used Soto to get through the seventh after the Grandal home run, so his options in the ninth other than Cisnero were lefties Derek Holland and Daniel Norris, and he preferred to save Norris if the game went extra innings.
Didn’t get that far.
Cisnero hit Moncada with a 2-2 slider, gave up a single to right to Abreu and then Mercedes fought off a 98-mph heater and dunked it over the drawn-in infield.
Hinch said Fulmer’s availability for Saturday would be determined after he tested the arm in the morning. The Tigers, though, added a fresh arm, calling up right-hander Bryan Garcia from Triple-A Toledo.
Turnbull was placed on the 10-day injured list.