There was uncertainty early over whether Wednesday's game would be played.
As boycotts across the NBA and MLB amassed, the Detroit Tigers and Chicago Cubs chose to play. The contest started, as scheduled, at 7:10 p.m., with the Tigers sending right-hander Michael Fulmer to the mound at Comerica Park.
And the Tigers (13-16) were successful, picking up a 7-6 win against the Cubs (18-12) behind a five-run sixth inning in the rubber match of the three-game series. Chicago starter Jon Lester kept the Tigers to one run through five innings, but the bullpen squandered his work.
About three hours before first pitch, the Bucks announced they would not play their NBA playoff game. Shortly after, the five other teams scheduled to play did the same, and then the Milwaukee Brewers followed suit. Games in Milwaukee (Brewers-Reds), San Diego (Padres-Mariners and San Francisco (Giants-Dodgers) were postponed because of Sunday's police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
"Given the pain in the communities of Wisconsin and beyond following the shooting of Jacob Blake, we respect the decisions of a number of players not to play tonight," MLB responded in a statement. "Major League Baseball remains united for a change in our society and we will be allies in the fight to end racism and injustice."
Still, manager Ron Gardenhire's squad played on.
Detroit continues its homestand tonight with a four-game series against the AL Central-leading Minnesota Twins, beginning with a clash between left-hander Matthew Boyd and righty Randy Dobnak.
Fulmer more efficient
Fulmer only needed 31 pitches to get through the first and second innings. His stumbles in the third cost him a change to go deeper than expected, as he gave up an RBI single to Anthony Rizzo and a sacrifice fly to Javier Baez before getting Kyle Schwarber to line out to end the inning.
In his fifth start, he gave up two runs on three hits and two walks with one strikeout.
Wednesday's outing marked the third time Fulmer this season made it through three innings. The first two came on Aug. 10 (57 pitches) and Aug. 21 (63 pitches). This time, he only needed 46 pitches to get the job done. He threw 29 strikes — two swinging, 10 called and seven foul balls. His fastball touched 95 mph.
Left-hander Daniel Norris replaced him, throwing scoreless innings in the fourth and fifth, only allowing two hits.
Jimenez in the 6th
Yes. You read that correctly.
Closer Joe Jimenez began warming up with one out in the bottom of the fifth inning. The Cubs were preparing to bring the heart of their order — Javier Baez, Kyle Schwarber and Willson Contreras — in the top of the sixth, so Gardenhire decided to switch things up.
In his last two outings, Jimenez gave up seven runs while recording just two outs.
"You have to be careful," Gardenhire said Monday after Jimenez gave up three runs on 22 pitches. "He threw 20-some pitches yesterday, and that was a struggle. Obviously, it wasn't a save situation, so you're always hoping they get through those things. But he needed to pitch, and you saw the results. He misfired all over the place. Probably trying to overthrow the ball.
"Hopefully, we'll get him in some save situations and see how he does, see if he can handle it like we know he can."
Well, the sixth inning doesn't provide a chance for a save, but that's where Gardenhire decided to use Jimenez. He allowed a solo home run to Kyle Schwarber, giving the Cubs a 3-1 lead, and later walked Jason Kipnis and tossed a fastball over David Bote's head.
But he managed to finish the frame in 17 pitches. Buck Farmer pitched the ninth inning for the Tigers, laboring through the Cubs' order and allowing three runs before finally getting the final out.
Bottom of the order
The seventh and eighth hitters in the Tigers' lineup, outfielder Cameron Maybin and catcher Austin Romine, were the catalysts for the five-run sixth inning. They both doubled to right field against reliever Rowan Wick, trimming the Tigers' deficit to one run.
After Isaac Paredes and Victor Reyes grounded out, Ryan Tepera replaced Wick — and the Tigers turned it up a notch. Jonathan Schoop, Miguel Cabrera, Jeimer Candelario, Niko Goodrum and Jorge Bonifacio had consecutive hits, giving the team a 6-3 edge.
Maybin and Romine were a combined 6-for-8, delivering one-third of the Tigers' 18 hits.
Evan Petzold is a sports reporting intern at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here's how you can gain access to our most exclusive Detroit Tigers content.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Tigers observations: Five-run sixth inning sparks 7-6 victory