A new Detroit Tigers tandem debuted Monday at Comerica Park and did not disappoint.
Right-hander Michael Fulmer and southpaw Daniel Norris combined for five scoreless innings, leading the Tigers (9-5) to a 5-1 victory over the Chicago White Sox.
The victory is the Tigers’ fourth in a row, and the seventh in 10 tries, pushing them tied with the Minnesota Twins (10-6) for first place in the division with 46 games remaining this season.
A two-run homer inside JaCoby Jones park in the seventh strengthened the lead. He is the first tiger since Nick Castellanos in 2017 to accomplish the feat.
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After Fulmer gave the Tigers three scoreless innings, Norris followed suit with two of his own – allowing just one hit and striking out two. Although the White Sox managed to get back in the seventh, relievers Gregory Soto and Bryan Garcia finished without further problems.
[ Are Tigers playoff contenders or pretenders? Next two weeks will tell the story ]
No race against Fulmer
Regardless of what happened the rest of the way, Fulmer walked off the pitch and knew he was doing as asked. That’s something he couldn’t say on July 27 in his last start (his first in 22 months) – allowing four runs in 2nd innings against the Kansas City Royals.
Two weeks later, after being jumped into the rotation due to a rain, Fulmer looked better. He gave up three hits and one walk in three innings. His two strikeouts came in the second inning on an 87 mph slider at Nomar Mazara and a 95 mph fastball at James McCann.
[ What Tigers’ Michael Fulmer learned from a bad inning in his return ]
Fulmer’s fastball topped at 96 mph, but averaged 94.3 mph. He mixed between four throws – fastball (18), shifting (14), lead (13) and slider (12). Recovering from Tommy John’s surgery that forced him to miss the entire 2019 season, Fulmer appeared to have stepped forward in his comfort on the mound.
On the last play early in the fourth, first baseman CJ Cron attempted to line up a ball hard hit by Danny Mendick and fell to the ground after the ball bounced off his leg. Sports coach Doug Teter went to see Cron, who lay on his back until both teams cleared the field. When Cron entered the canoe, he put no pressure on his left leg.
The Tigers announced that he left with a left knee injury and is being evaluated. Entering Monday, Cron was hitting .195 with three doubles, four homers and eight RBIs. Jeimer Candelario took over at first goal while Dawel Lugo came in to play third.
Goodrum, Candelario carry the bats
Shortstop Niko Goodrum went 0 for 12 in five games before arriving in Pittsburgh for a three game weekend. There he hit 4 for 12 with six RBIs in the first two games before a 0 for 4 performance on Sunday.
But he got back on track on Monday, finishing 4 for 4 to the plate. He homed in the sixth inning with a 76 mph slider from White Sox starter Dallas Keuchel, who gave up three runs on six hits and two walks in six innings.
Candelario contributed by going 2-for-4 with a double and a triple. His seventh inning triple led to a 3-1 lead, as Victor Reyes pushed him with a single onto the next court.
[ Jeimer Candelario showed up when the Tigers needed him most ]
Candelario entered the series against Pittsburgh 2-for-21, but now has 10 hits and is batting .256.
No Buck, No Problem
The Tigers continue their progress without the Buck Farmer set-up, who went on the 10-day injured list before Monday’s game with a left groin strain. So when Jose Cisnero couldn’t get out of the seventh inning, manager Ron Gardenhire turned to Soto, 25. And in just three shots, Soto knocked the Tigers out of the jam.
In eight games this season, Soto pitched nine innings, allowing one hit and one walk with 11 strikeouts.
Evan Petzold is a sports reporting intern for the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.