Michael Fulmer blows lead for Detroit Tigers in 3-2 Game 2 loss to Houston Astros

Detroit Free Press

Detroit Tigers manager AJ Hinch trotted out to the mound and removed right-hander Wily Peralta in the third inning, even though the 32-year-old veteran had a no-hitter intact.

But that was the plan.

Peralta was only scheduled to pitch one time through the Houston Astros’ batting order in Game 2 of Saturday’s doubleheader, and he didn’t let his team down. Peralta struggled with his command — falling into three-ball counts to six of nine hitters — but kept the Astros hitless and scoreless.

Hinch was on his way to managing a masterful victory against his old team, until one of his most trusted relievers faltered in the sixth inning.

Righty reliever Michael Fulmer gave up back-to-back two-out home runs to Yordan Alvarez and Carlos Correa. The Tigers (33-44) were handed a Game 2 loss, 3-2, to split Saturday’s doubleheader of seven-inning games at Comerica Park.

GAME 1: Infielder Zack Short makes statement in 3-1 win over Houston Astros

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In Game 1 of the doubleheader, the Tigers beat the Astros, 3-1, behind a two-run homer from Zack Short. It snapped Houston’s 11-game winning streak. Short, a 26-year-old shortstop, was called up from Triple-A Toledo as the 27th man for the doubleheader.

The four-game series finale is Sunday at 1:10 p.m.

Detroit has a 4-2 record against Houston this season.

Peralta, Funkhouser start strong

The Tigers picked up 2⅔ innings from Peralta, who walked one batter in the second and another in the third. His second-inning walk was erased by catcher Eric Haase, who jumped on a blocked pitch and caught Alvarez trying to steal second base.

Peralta threw 25 of his 50 pitches for strikes and didn’t record a strikeout.

But he did enough to get through the order once, and that’s all Hinch needed to set up his bullpen for success in the late innings of the seven-inning clash. Funkhouser inherited a runner on first base, and he walked Jose Altuve — the first batter he faced — but retired Michael Brantley to escape the jam.

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The first hit from the Astros came in the fourth inning, as Yuli Gurriel recorded a leadoff infield single. He was erased from the bases, however, on an unassisted double play from Short, also starting at shortstop in Game 2.

Funkhouser produced his best work in the fifth inning. He struck out Kyle Tucker, Abraham Toro and Martin Maldonado to complete his outing. All three batters went down swinging. Tucker and Toro were punched out with fastballs, Myles Straw singled to center field, and Maldonado whiffed at a slider.

As he has accomplished since coming up from Triple-A Toledo in May, Funkhouser filled up the strike zone. He threw 23 of 35 pitches for strikes and lowered his ERA to 3.24 through 19 appearances (25 innings) in 2021.

Scoring runs

Houston starter Lance McCullers Jr. pitched well, but the Tigers capitalized on each of their two opportunities.

The Tigers opened the scoring in the first inning, as Jonathan Schoop’s single and Robbie Grossman’s walk applied pressure. With two outs, Nomar Mazara delivered an RBI single to center field for a 1-0 lead.

McCullers retied the next 11 batters in a row, getting him through one out in the fifth inning.

NOTEBOOK: Tigers hope to complete doubleheader ‘uninterrupted’ despite weather concerns

That’s when Harold Castro singled to create the second scoring opportunity. A two-out walk from Akil Baddoo, the leadoff hitter, forced a mound visit and, again, put pressure on McCullers. Jonathan Schoop slapped a slider into left field — and Castro beat the throw home from Brantley — for a 2-0 lead.

McCullers gave up two runs on five hits and two walks, with seven strikeouts, across 5⅓ innings. He was removed after Mazara’s one-out double in the sixth inning, but reliever Ryne Stanek ended the inning without further trouble.

Ryan Pressly picked up his 12th save with a perfect seventh inning.

Blowing the lead

A leadoff double by Altuve set the tone for the Astros against Fulmer in the sixth.

Fulmer battled back with back-to-back line-outs — Brantley to first base and Gurriel to left field — but couldn’t stop Alvarez. Fulmer’s two-seam fastball traveled belt-high on the outside edge of the strike zone, and the 23-year-old slugger didn’t miss.

Alvarez tied the game, 2-2.

Two pitches later, Correa smacked another two-seamer to put the Astros ahead.

Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter

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