Blue Jays-Tigers Preview

Michael Fulmer inherited the status of Detroit Tigers ace after Justin Verlander was traded late last season to the Houston Astros.

He hasn’t proved worthy of that distinction this season. The third-year right-hander has posted one victory in his last nine starts. He’ll try to get back on track Sunday when he faces the Toronto Blue Jays in the finale of a three-game series.

Fulmer (2-4, 4.60 ERA) got pulled after 3 1/3 innings Tuesday, when he allowed five runs and six runs and issued a season-high four walks to the Los Angeles Angels. He has given up five or more runs in four of his 11 starts.

“I’m just kind of embarrassed the way I’m pitching right now, because everything feels good,” Fulmer said. “That was my goal this year, to stay healthy. That’s it. I need to do a better job of trying to get back to old form and getting deep into games and giving my team a chance to win.”

Fulmer has won both his career starts against the Blue Jays while giving up one run in 14 innings.

Detroit has already notched its sixth consecutive home series victory and is 7-0-1 in its last eight at Comerica Park. It won the first two games, including 7-4 on Saturday.

“We want to win in front of our fans. We want them coming to appreciate this ballclub and I think they do,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “I think the fans really enjoy this group because they play, they get after it.”

They also appreciate right fielder Nicholas Castellanos‘ hitting rampage. He carries a seven-game hitting streak into Sunday’s game and has 11 hits in his last four games.

“We all know we’re seeing a really good hitter out there that’s really putting the barrel on the ball,” Gardenhire said. “He still swings at some pitches out of the zone, like every hitter, and he should just get better and better. He’s a fun player to watch.”

Like Fulmer, Toronto starter Aaron Sanchez (2-5, 4.77) will also try to bounce back from a poor outing. He gave up a season-high seven runs and nine hits in five innings at Boston on Memorial Day, though he found some positives afterward.

“I was pretty pleased pretty much the whole game,” Sanchez told MLB.com. “I felt like I was down in the zone. I felt like my pitches had good action. They had a couple of singles in that (fifth) inning, then a bloop and a blast. Those are the things that hurt you, but it’s baseball, it happens. For the majority of the game I felt like I had good action on it.”

Sanchez didn’t last more than five innings in any of his five May outings. He has had good success in the past against Detroit, posting a 1-0 record and 1.50 ERA in six outings.

The Blue Jays have lost five straight and will have to make do without third baseman Josh Donaldson until at least next weekend. Donaldson was placed on the 10-day disabled list Friday, retroactive to May 29, because of lingering calf tightness.

“I’m having improvements with it, it’s just not to the point where I’m comfortable sprinting,” Donaldson told MLB.com. “That’s the last and final stage that we have. It’s one of those deals where I don’t want to take up a (roster) spot, when I can’t run and play defense, to put our team in a bind.”