Rookie Michael Fulmer featured a mid-90s fastball and wipeout slider for five innings, earning a win in his major league debut as the Detroit Tigers beat the Minnesota Twins 6-2 at Target Field on Friday night.
If Fulmer had any pregame jitters, we didn't get a chance to see them. The Tigers offense staked their rookie righthander to a three-run lead in the first inning before he even threw a pitch. Ian Kinsler drew a walk and stole second base to open the game, then scored on an RBI double to deep center field from J.D. Martinez. Victor Martinez drove in J.D. with a sharp single to right. After Victor went first to third (seriously) on a Justin Upton single, he scored on a sacrifice fly (double seriously) off the bat of Nick Castellanos.
After breezing through the first three innings, Fulmer finally hit a speed bump in the bottom of the fourth. The Twins hit a trio of two-out singles, all up the middle off Fulmer's mid-90s fastball, to get on the board. The Tigers answered in the top of the fifth, though. After a series of loud outs in the previous couple innings, Miguel Cabrera hit a laser over the right field wall for a solo home run, his fourth of the season.
The Twins added a second run off a tiring Fulmer in the fifth. After Brian Dozier drew a one-out walk, Miguel Sano lined a double into the left-center gap. Anthony Gose and Mike Aviles botched a potential relay, allowing Dozier to score from first. Aviles redeemed himself in the next at-bat with a nice play on a sharp ground ball from Byung-ho Park to end the threat.
The Tigers added some insurance runs in the top of the eighth. Victor Martinez led off the inning with a solo home run to right field off of former Tigers reliever Casey Fien. Nick Castellanos added another solo shot two batters later, this one a bomb to deep center field. A single from Aviles sent Fien to the showers, but the Tigers weren't done. Consecutive hits from Bobby Wilson (his first as a Tiger) and Gose scored Aviles, but J.D. Martinez and Cabrera were unable to capitalize with the bases loaded later in the frame.
After a 1-2-3 inning from Drew VerHagen in the eighth, the Tigers added another run in the ninth. Consecutive hits from Victor Martinez, Upton, and Castellanos -- who combined to go 10-for-14 with five RBI -- scored another run. Bobby Wilson plated another run when Twins outfielders Danny Santana and Oswaldo Arcia let a routine fly ball drop between them, giving the Tigers a season-high nine runs on 18 hits.
Michael Fulmer: He ran into a bit of trouble in the middle innings, but Fulmer showed why the Tigers were so eager to acquire him last July. Flashing a mid-90s fastball and lethal slider (that reached as high as 90 miles per hour at points), Fulmer struck out four and only walked one in five innings.
The offense: There are players to single out here, but all nine of the Tigers' hitters collected a hit in this game. Staking Fulmer to an early lead was crucial, and they piled on in the later innings. Victor Martinez had a four-hit game and finished a triple shy of the cycle. Justin Upton added three hits, validating my assertion from the first inning.
Calling it now: this is the start of the J-Up breakout— Rob Rogacki (@BYBRob) April 30, 2016
The bullpen: Alex Wilson, Justin Wilson, Drew VerHagen, and Buck Farmer combined to pitch four scoreless innings to clinch Fulmer's win. The Tigers bullpen has a 2.92 ERA through the team's first 22 games.
STREAKS AND STATS:
- Miguel Cabrera's home run in the fourth inning was the 412th of his career, which tied him with Alfonso Soriano for 51st in MLB history.
- Michael Fulmer is the first Tigers pitcher to win his major league debut since Kyle Ryan, who threw six shutout innings against the Chicago White Sox on August 30, 2014.
- Nick Castellanos has hit safely in 13 of his last 15 games.
- Justin Wilson has recorded 11 consecutive scoreless outings to begin the season. The longest such streak in team history is 13 games, a record held by Fernando Rodney (2006) and Fred Gladding (1967).
- Victor Martinez's home run in the eighth inning was his fifth of the season. He did not hit his fifth home run until July 11 last season. Coincidentally, that homer also came against the Twins at Target Field in a game started by Phil Hughes.
- The Tigers have scored 25 runs since J.D. Martinez and Justin Upton were swapped in the lineup.
WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH: