Fulmer, Duffy square off as Tigers, Royals finish series

A pair of aces enduring disappointing seasons will match up on Wednesday afternoon in Kansas City.

The Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals will finish off a two-game series. Kansas City won the opener 6-2 on Tuesday night behind Jakob Junis‘ first complete-game victory of his career.

Detroit’s starter in the Wednesday matinee, Michael Fulmer, made his first start since the All-Star break on Friday after recovering from an oblique strain. He held the Chicago White Sox scoreless for 4 2/3 innings while throwing 77 pitches.

Prior to the injury, Fulmer (3-9, 4.32 ERA) went through a series of maddening starts in which he often had one bad inning while his teammates failed to provide run support. The 2016 American League Rookie of the Year hasn’t collected a victory since June 14. In his last eight starts, the Tigers have scored an average of 2.1 runs.

His return outing gave him hope for better results the rest of the season.

“It was a step in the right direction,” Fulmer told the Detroit News. “The mechanical adjustments I’ve made paid off.”

Fulmer’s pitch count is expected to be in the 85-90 range on Wednesday. Manager Ron Gardenhire rearranged his rotation so that Fulmer can pitch every fifth day. Detroit had a day off on Monday, so Gardenhire pushed back Francisco Liriano’s next start to accommodate Fulmer.

Fulmer wanted to finish out the fifth inning on Friday but understood Gardenhire’s cautious approach.

“It felt good to be back,” said Fulmer, who is 2-4 with a 3.23 ERA in eight career starts against Kansas City. “Glad it was a quicker rehab than everyone expected, including myself. Just glad to be up here pitching and I hope to get this team a win next time.”

Danny Duffy’s last start also came after an injury, although not quite as serious as the strain that sidelined for Fulmer for more than a month. The Royals lefty made his first start since Aug. 11 on Thursday, allowing two runs on six hits in five innings while taking a no-decision against Tampa Bay.

Duffy (7-11, 4.85 ERA) made a quick return from the disabled list after dealing with shoulder tendinitis. Duffy’s fastball velocity returned to the usual 93-95 MPH range after dipping toward 90 in his previous outing.

“I didn’t really have any expectations,” he told the Kansas City Star afterward. “I just wanted to go out there with plenty in the tank and be efficient. I could have been more efficient. But I did make some pitches when I needed to.”

Duffy has been rocked by the Tigers in two starts this season. Detroit has piled up 13 earned runs in 10 1/3 innings in those games. He’s 7-10 with a 4.63 ERA in 24 career outings against the Tigers.

However, Detroit is mired in a four-game losing streak with the other losses coming against the downtrodden Chicago White Sox.

“We haven’t played well on the road,” Gardenhire said. “I don’t know why. Nothing really good has happened on the road and we’ve got to figure that out.”