Matt Shoemaker probably looks back fondly – and now longingly – at a rookie season in which he won four of every five of his decisions for the Los Angeles Angels.
On Wednesday night against visiting Detroit, that ratio will be thrown in his face in the form of Tigers rookie Michael Fulmer, but it's the Angels going for the sweep.
Shoemaker (3-5, 5.96 ERA) went 16-4 with a 3.04 ERA in 2014 and has unraveled since, going 10-15 with a 4.83 mark.
Fulmer (4-1, 3.97) might not be quite as deserving of his record as Shoemaker was as a rookie, but he's certainly earned the last two wins. The right-hander gave up three hits in 7 2/3 scoreless innings of Friday's 4-1 win in Oakland, six days after limiting Tampa Bay to a run and four hits over seven innings of a 5-4 home victory.
"I'm still learning," Fulmer said. "I feel so much more comfortable. I just trust everything. It feels good to get big league hitters out any way I can."
It's also got to be a bit of a relief for the 23-year-old to be producing after the Tigers traded away Yoenis Cespedes in the deal that sent Fulmer on his way from the New York Mets on July 31.
"We paid dearly for him," bench coach Gene Lamont said. "I'm not knocking the kid, but he came in a pretty big trade for Cespedes. You expect to get something good for Cespedes and he's done a good job for us so far. I think he's shown enough that he's going to stay here for a while."
The Angels once said the same about Shoemaker, and the right-hander might finally be getting his season going in a positive direction. He gave up two runs and struck out 11 in a career-high 8 1/3 innings of Friday's 7-2 home win over Houston following a dominant effort against Baltimore, yielding three hits in 7 1/3 scoreless innings with a career-best 12 strikeouts.
"This is reminiscent of a couple years ago, but with a little something extra," manager Mike Scioscia said. "Everything in the last couple starts has come together for him. … These last two games have been as good as you can pitch."
Shoemaker has dominated the Tigers regardless of year, going 2-0 with a 0.46 ERA in three starts. Victor Martinez (0 for 6), Miguel Cabrera (1 for 9) and J.D. Martinez (1 for 7) have yet to figure him out.
Los Angeles (24-28) has won the first two of the three-game series, and Tuesday's 11-9 victory secured its fourth straight series win over the Tigers while extending its home winning streak against them to nine.
C.J. Cron hit a pair of two-run homers, including a walk-off shot after the Angels blew a 9-2 lead. Mike Trout was 2 for 3 with a three-run homer, and Jefry Marte was 4 for 4 with a two-run blast on the same day he was recalled from the minors.
Detroit (24-27) has dropped four straight after winning nine of 11. They've given up 32 runs on the skid, and even a substantial uptick in offense against the Angels wasn't enough. Ian Kinsler had a grand slam while Cabrera, J.D. Martinez, Victor Martinez and Upton also homered.