DETROIT — Michael Fulmer is one of the biggest reasons the Detroit Tigers are still in the mix for a postseason spot.
At the start of the team’s final homestand, the rookie right-hander came through with his sharpest performance in weeks.
Fulmer pitched seven strong innings for his first win in over a month and the Detroit Tigers homered three times in an 8-3 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Friday night. Justin Upton, Victor Martinez and Cameron Maybin went deep for the Tigers, who won their fifth game in a row to remain in the lead in the race for the AL’s second wild card.
Detroit remained a half-game ahead of Baltimore, which beat Arizona in 12 innings.
“I think there’s a little bit of a sense of urgency now,” Detroit manager Brad Ausmus said. “This is our last homestand. This is the last chance at home to try and do something in the standings, and we’re playing against two teams … in Kansas City and Cleveland, we know very well. Maybe I was the only one that felt it, but I felt there was more energy.”
Fulmer (11-7) allowed a run and eight hits, striking out nine with no walks. It was the first victory since Aug. 14 for Fulmer, who emerged around midseason as a Rookie of the Year candidate but is now having to fight off a torrid challenge from Gary Sanchez of the New York Yankees.
Danny Duffy (12-3) allowed six runs and seven hits in 3 2/3 innings. He walked four and struck out four.
The Tigers jumped ahead right away against Duffy. The Royals made two errors in the first inning, and Upton’s RBI double made it 2-0.
Martinez and Upton each hit solo shots in the third, and Maybin’s two-run homer in the fourth made it 6-0.
Upton has 27 homers on the season, including 14 in his last 29 games.
Kansas City has lost nine of its last 12.
Kansas City’s only run off Fulmer came after replay overturned the second out of an apparent double play, which would have ended the top of the sixth. Ausmus complained to the umpires, saying the Royals had waited too long before challenging.
“I said I wanted to protest, which, even going into it, when I said it, I knew instant replay wasn’t protestable,” Ausmus said.
After the review revived the rally, Paulo Orlando hit an RBI single.
ON THE BORDERLINE
Fulmer is the AL’s ERA leader at 2.95 — his 155 2/3 innings are enough to qualify at this point. He’ll need to throw 6 1/3 more to qualify for the title at the end of the season.
The Tigers have taken steps to limit his workload, and this latest start was a positive sign.
“I still feel good, so I guess it’s working,” Fulmer said. “Hopefully I’m able to still pitch beyond the regular season. That’s our goal as a team.”
Royals: Kansas City C Salvador Perez sat out with what manager Ned Yost described as a very minor knee issue.
Tigers: 2B Ian Kinsler returned to the lineup from a concussion after missing three games. He had a single, a double, two walks and three runs. … SS Jose Iglesias left in the top of the seventh with a bruised right hand. X-rays were negative.
Royals: Kansas City sends RHP Yordano Ventura (11-11) to the mound for Saturday’s game at Detroit. Ventura is coming off a complete game against the Chicago White Sox on Monday.
Tigers: Detroit starts LHP Daniel Norris (3-2) in the middle game of this series.
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