A’s go for 4-game sweep of Tigers

The bottom line does not tell the story of Michael Fulmer’s last start.

The Detroit Tigers right-hander overpowered the Cincinnati Reds for 5 2/3 innings on June 20, holding them scoreless while striking out nine.

Fulmer then gave up back-to-back homers on what he felt were well-located sliders. Scooter Gennett, who badly missed a Fulmer slider earlier in the at-bat, golfed a two-run shot over the right-field wall. Eugenio Suarez followed with a blast over the left-field wall.

Fulmer wound up with his sixth loss of the season.

He’ll hope for some better luck in a Thursday matinee against the Oakland Athletics.

The Tigers will be trying to break an eight-game losing streak after dropping the first three games of the series while Oakland will attempt to get its first four-game sweep of Detroit since 2001.

“Last start, everything was kind of on cruise control and then Gennett hit a good pitch out,” Fulmer said. “But people don’t see the pitch, they see the results. They look at the linescore and that’s it.

“They don’t see that my fastball velo is up, my sinker’s moving more, my slider has been a lot sharper as of late,” Fulmer continued. “That’s the problem from a player’s standpoint and a spectator’s standpoint. ‘Oh, he gave up two home runs in one inning last start, it wasn’t a very good start.’ Don’t worry about the other five innings where I did really well. Sometimes, people don’t think just to give the hitters credit.”

Fulmer (3-6, 4.17 ERA) limited Minnesota and Cleveland to one run in seven innings in each of his previous two outings. He’s throwing as hard as ever, with his four-seamer and sinker averaging over 97 mph this month.

Other than his changeup being a little faster than he’d like, Fulmer believes he’s in top form.

“I’m not frustrated with the way I pitched or my stuff,” said Fulmer, who is 2-0 with an 0.57 ERA in two career starts against Oakland. “I’m frustrated with the results and that’s the way it’s kind of been for me so far this season. I’m still very positive. I still trust everything, I feel like we’re very close to being dominant for a full game.”

The Tigers could certainly use one of those outings.

Left-hander Sean Manaea (7-6, 3.40 ERA) will oppose Fulmer after having his scheduled start pushed back a day. He has delivered three consecutive quality starts following a rough patch in May. Manaea allowed four or more earned runs in five of his six May starts but he’s held opponents to a combined six runs in his last three outings.

“I was trying to be too perfect and it was causing me to overthink things,” he said. “Now, I’m trying to keep things simple.”

Manaea has walked just one batter in those three starts while collecting 17 strikeouts. He held the Chicago White Sox to one run on five hits in seven innings during his last start. He lost his only career start against Detroit while giving up three runs in six innings.

Oakland’s streak of hitting a homer in 27 consecutive road games, a major league record, ended on Wednesday but it still came away with a 3-0 victory. Jed Lowrie has seven hits in the series, including two homers and two doubles.