‘Amped’ Fulmer earns 10th save in gutsy way

Detroit Tigers

While that might be true, Michael Fulmer wasn’t willing to shake off Friday’s defeat until he made things right.

Fulmer was visibly frustrated in the ninth inning Friday when the first hitter he faced, Yandy Díaz, stroked a two-run double. Fulmer later allowed the game-tying sacrifice fly before closing the ninth. When he took the mound to start the ninth inning on Saturday, the Tigers had just a one-run lead, and Fulmer wasn’t going to let the Rays railroad him again.

It was dicey at first. After issuing a leadoff walk, Fulmer hit Joey Wendle with a pitch to bring up Brett Phillips — who smashed a walk-off homer in the 10th on Friday — prompting a mound visit from catcher Dustin Garneau.

“It’s impossible,” manager A.J. Hinch later said, “to get into that situation and not have some semblance of flashback to [Friday] night.”

“[Fulmer] was amped up out there, throwing it a million miles per hour,” Garneau said. “When he starts yanking balls like that, I just want him to get back to being over the plate and being in control. After that, he’s got lights-out stuff.”

Fulmer responded to the chat just like the Tigers hoped he would, striking out Phillips on five pitches to bring up Friday’s nemesis, Díaz. There wasn’t even time for much suspense to build around the matchup, as Díaz took a hack at Fulmer’s first offering — a 94.2 mph slider — and grounded into a 4-6-3 double play to seal Detroit’s win and give Fulmer both redemption and his 10th save of the season.

“[Fulmer is] tough, man. He can handle a lot,” Hinch said. “Díaz is just a really good hitter, and I’m not sure how many people know exactly how impactful he can be. And Michael had that same matchup last night. [He] was able to get below the barrel [on Saturday], get the ground ball and get the double play. So, good win for us.”

Fulmer figures to be a key end-of-game guy down the stretch after the Tigers announced Saturday that Gregory Soto was likely done for the season after fracturing the tip of his left pinky finger while shielding his face from a comebacker on Friday.

Can Garneau see into future?
Garneau, a seven-year Major League veteran, has been around the game long enough to know something special when he sees it. After spending just more than a month with Detroit following an Aug. 18 trade with the Rockies, Garneau emphasized his confidence in this rebuilding Tigers squad.

His opinion certainly carries some clout given his past predictions.

“When I was with the A’s in 2017, we lost 90 games, but I went home at the end of the year and told my wife that they were going to be a playoff team in 2018, which they were,” Garneau said. “I don’t have a crystal ball or anything, but you could see where they were going. The way this [Tigers] team has changed and the way the clubhouse has changed, they are definitely going in the right direction to be a contender, in my opinion.”

On this date in Tigers history
Sept. 19, 1968: Denny McLain earns his career-best 31st victory in a win over the Yankees. McLain is the last pitcher to reach the elusive 30-win benchmark, but this game is probably best remembered as Mickey Mantle’s final game in Detroit. Mantle slugged career homer No. 535 in the eighth inning, passing Jimmie Foxx to move into third on the all-time list.

Adding to the legend that McLain intentionally served up a belt-high fastball for Mantle to jump on, Mantle later autographed the ball and gifted it to McLain.

He said it
“Obviously, Michael’s going to get a lot of time back there, Alex Lange, [Kyle] Funkhouser … Derek Holland let me know this morning that he doesn’t have a save yet in his career, but he’s willing to do it any time. So I’ve got a lot of volunteers.” — Hinch, on filling the closer role after the injury to Soto

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