A new Detroit Tigers tandem debuted Monday at Comerica Park and did not disappoint.
Right-hander Michael Fulmer and left-hander Daniel Norris combined for five scoreless innings, leading the Tigers (9-5) to a 5-1 win against the Chicago White Sox.
The win is the Tigers’ fourth straight, and seventh in 10 tries, pushing them into a tie with the Minnesota Twins (10-6) for first place in the division with 46 games remaining this season.
A two-run inside-the-park homer from JaCoby Jones in the seventh padded 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 — only allowing one hit and striking out two. Though the White Sox were able to get a run back in the seventh, relievers Gregory Soto and Bryan Garcia finished without further trouble.
[ Are Tigers playoff contenders or pretenders? Next two weeks will tell the story ]
No runs vs. Fulmer
Regardless of what happened the rest of the way, Fulmer walked off the field and knew he did what was asked of him. That’s something he wasn’t able to say July 27 in his last start (his first in 22 months) — allowing four runs in 2⅔ innings against the Kansas City Royals.
Two weeks later, after he was skipped in the rotation due to a rainout, 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 to Nomar Mazara and a 95 mph fastball to James McCann.
[ What Tigers’ Michael Fulmer learned from a bad inning in his return ]
Fulmer’s fastball topped out at 96 mph but averaged 94.3 mph. He mixed between four pitches — fastball (18), changeup (14), sinker (13) and slider (12). Recovering from Tommy John surgery that forced him to miss the entire 2019 season, Fulmer seemed to have taken a step forward in his comfortability on the mound.
On the final play in the top of the fourth, first baseman C.J. Cron attempted to field a hard-hit ball from Danny Mendick and fell to the ground after the ball bounced off his leg. Athletic trainer Doug Teter went out to check on Cron, who remained on his back until after both teams cleared the field. When Cron went into the dugout, he didn’t put any pressure on his left leg.
The Tigers announced he left because of a left knee injury and is undergoing further evaluation. Entering Monday, Cron was hitting .195 with three doubles, four home runs and eight RBIs. Jeimer Candelario took over at first base while Dawel Lugo entered to play third base.
Goodrum, Candelario carry the bats
Shortstop Niko Goodrum was 0-for-12 in five games before getting to Pittsburgh for a three-game weekend slate. There, he hit 4-for-12 with six RBIs in the first two contests before an 0-for-4 performance Sunday.
But he got back on track Monday, finishing 4-for-4 at the plate. He homered in the sixth inning off 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 chipped in by going 2-for-4 with a double and triple. His seventh-inning triple led to a 3-1 lead, as Victor Reyes drove him in with a single on the next pitch.
[ 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 are continuing forward without set-up man Buck Farmer, who went to 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 the 25-year-old Soto. And in just three pitches, Soto got the Tigers out of the jam.
In eight games this season, Soto has pitched nine innings, allowing one hit and one walk with 11 strikeouts.
Evan Petzold is a sports reporting intern at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.