Michael Fulmer is showing Detroit didn't come away empty-handed when trading Yoenis Cespedes last summer, and the Tigers' offense hasn't suffered in the slugger's absence.
Fulmer vies for a fourth consecutive winning start and attempts to stop the Toronto Blue Jays' current roll in Monday night's opener of a three-game series.
Obtained from the Mets in the July 31 deal that sent Cespedes to New York, Fulmer (5-1, 3.24 ERA) struggled through his first four major league outings but has looked every bit the front-line starter the Tigers envisioned over his last three. The impressive rookie has yielded one run and nine hits over 22 1/3 innings during a winning streak that began when he struck out 11 in seven innings against Tampa Bay in his Comerica Park debut May 21.
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Fulmer followed with dominant efforts against Oakland and the Angels on Detroit's last road trip, limiting Los Angeles to two hits across 7 2/3 innings and carrying a no-hitter into the seventh of Wednesday's 3-0 victory. The 23-year-old became the first Tigers pitcher since Mickey Lolich in 1968 to record consecutive starts with seven-plus scoreless innings and three or fewer hits allowed.
“He's not intimidated by who's stepping into the batter's box,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “The environment doesn't seem to bother him. I just think it's his makeup – and he's got good stuff.''
Detroit (28-28) is also swinging the bats well, batting .339 during a 4-1 stretch and collecting at least 11 hits in all five games. It recorded 12 in Sunday's 5-2 win over the Chicago White Sox to complete a three-game sweep.
The three wins came against left-handers Carlos Rodon, Chris Sale and Jose Quintana. The Tigers entered the series having lost eight of their last 10 matchups with southpaw starters and with a .239 average versus lefties for the season.
''We knew we were going to hit lefties better than we have, especially with our lineup, but this was big,'' Ausmus said. ''Rodon's a younger guy, but he's got great upside, and Sale and Quintana are two of the best lefty starters in the game today.'
Detroit faces another good one in the opener, as J.A. Happ (6-2, 3.06) has produced quality starts in 10 of his 11 assignments, including all six on the road.
Happ has posted a 2.21 ERA over his last three starts, allowing 10 hits in 20 1/3 innings. The 33-year-old held the Yankees to a run over six innings in a no-decision Tuesday, the sixth time this season he's allowed one or less while pitching at least six innings.
“I'm happy with the results,” Happ told MLB's official website.
Happ, 1-0 with a 3.05 ERA in four starts at Detroit, tries to follow up Marco Estrada's gem in Sunday's 5-4 victory at Boston. The right-hander had a no-hitter through 7 1/3 innings and permitted two runs over eight-plus against the majors' highest-scoring team, leading Toronto (32-27) to its ninth win in 11 games.
Happ will be challenged to duplicate Estrada's line against a potent Tigers' lineup. Justin Upton is 3 for 5 with a home run off him, Ian Kinsler is hitting .407 against lefties and Victor Martinez .410 over his last 10 games. Each had two hits Sunday, with Upton delivering a two-run double and Martinez finishing the series 7 for 12.
Toronto, which has won seven of 10 on the road, is 9-3 against Detroit since 2014.