Detroit Tigers' Michael Fulmer stung by singles in 3-2 loss to Pirates in Game 1

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Evan Petzold, Detroit Free Press
·5 min read
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The grounds crew arrived to Comerica Park around sunrise Wednesday morning — well before the Detroit Tigers showed up — to clean a sheet of snow from the outfield greens. After Tuesday's game was postponed because of a mixture of snow, rain and sleet, the players returned to the field for a seven-inning doubleheader.

The Tigers (6-11) lost, 3-2, to the Pittsburgh Pirates in Game 1 of Wednesday's doubleheader. It was their first game at Comerica Park since April 7. They went 3-7 on a 10-game road trip that took them to Cleveland, Houston and Oakland.

The temperature was 40 degrees at first pitch.

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Both runs from the Tigers were set up by doubles — Victor Reyes' in the third inning and Wilson Ramos' in the fourth inning. Reyes stole third base, allowing Robbie Grossman to drive him in on a sac fly. Then, after the Pirates tacked on three runs against starter Michael Fulmer in the top of the fourth, Jonathan Schoop singled to score Ramos.

The Tigers and Pirates take the field again at 6:40 p.m. Wednesday. Right-hander Spencer Turnbull will make his season debut after missing the final two weeks of spring training and the first three weeks of the regular season with COVID-19. Tighty Mitch Keller will take the mound for the Pirates.

The series finale is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. Thursday.

Michael Fulmer strong again

The Tigers limited Fulmer to four innings because he is slated to start Sunday against the Kansas City Royals on short rest. Before the doubleheader, manager AJ Hinch said Fulmer was only supposed to toss two or three innings before giving way to lefty Tarik Skubal.

But Fulmer retired the first 15 batters he faced.

The fourth was a different story, as he gave up three weak singles in a row to begin the inning. He allowed an additional single and walk with one and two outs, respectively, as the Pirates took a 3-1 lead on RBIs from Bryan Reynolds, Colin Moran and Erik Gonzalez.

Fulmer struck out Dustin Fowler swinging for the second time to wiggle out of the jam. He finished with 60 pitches (40 strikes) and three strikeouts.

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Detroit Tigers pitcher Michael Fulmer throws against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first inning during the first game of a doubleheader in Detroit, Wednesday, April 21, 2021.
Detroit Tigers pitcher Michael Fulmer throws against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first inning during the first game of a doubleheader in Detroit, Wednesday, April 21, 2021.

Of his 60 pitches, Fulmer fired 20 sliders, 20 sinkers, 10 changeups, eight four-seam fastballs and two curveballs. Those offerings earned him 11 swings-and-misses — five with his sharp slider — and eight called strikes.

Fulmer's sinker averaged 94.8 mph and topped out at 96.4 mph. The Pirates didn't hit the ball hard against him, averaging an exit velocity of 81.9 mph.

This was Fulmer's second start and fifth appearance this season. He pitched five innings of two-run ball in a 6-4 win over the Houston Astros in an April 14 start. He made three appearances out of the bullpen before shifting back to the starting rotation.

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Tarik Skubal enters

Skubal pitched the final three innings, moved to the bullpen to make room for Turnbull. He kept the Pirates from scoring and improved as the game continued, though his final inning nearly derailed him. He allowed three hits and three walks, registering two strikeouts.

The 24-year-old's fastball velocity averaged just 93.6 mph and topped out at 95.4 mph.

Skubal continues to battle his command. He needed 62 pitches (37 strikes) for three innings, using 35 four-seam fastballs, 18 sliders and nine splitters. He got six of his eight swings-and-misses with his fastball, and the other two whiffs came from his slider.

With two outs in the seventh, Skubal allowed back-to-back singles, then walked Bryan Richards to load the bases, necessitating a visit to the mound from pitching coach Chris Fetter. On the next batter, however, Skubal got some help from his defense, as second baseman Willi Castro made a backhanded play on a hard-hit grounder from Moran and threw him out at first base from the ground.

Short makes MLB debut

The Tigers struck out seven times against left-handed starter Tyler Anderson, but 25-year-old infielder Zack Short wasn't fooled in his MLB debut. Short drew walks in his first two plate appearances before flying out to center to end the game in the seventh inning.

In the third inning, he came back from down 0-2 in the count and managed an eight-pitch walk. Two innings later, he fell behind 1-2 in the count but worked a seven-pitch walk. Also, Short made a spectacular play at third base in the fourth inning to keep Fulmer from giving up his fourth consecutive single.

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Short was the only Tiger to walk in Game 1.

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The Tigers acquired Short at last year's trade deadline from the Chicago Cubs in exchange for veteran outfielder Cameron Maybin. The Tigers designated infielder Renato Nunez for assignment to make room for Short on the 26-man roster.

Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Tigers stung by singles in 3-2 loss to Pirates in Game 1