NOTE­BOOK Fast­balls baf­fle Roy­als

Ful­mer switches be­tween his twoand four-seam­ers

The Detroit News - - Front Page - BY CHRIS MCCOSKY The Detroit News

Detroit — In his last start, a two-hit, 1-0 loss in San Diego, Tigers pitcher Michael Ful­mer fea­tured an al­most un­hit­table twoseam fast­ball. He threw 61 of them, rang­ing in speed from 9799 mph. It pro­duced 12 swings and misses and not a sin­gle base hit.

Nat­u­rally, the Roy­als scouted that game. And their hit­ters were put on high alert, es­pe­cially the left-handed hit­ters, be­cause the two-seam fast­ball’s swing­back ac­tion can be par­a­lyz­ing to left­ies.

But the Tigers changed the game plan. Ful­mer, who was one out from a four-hit com­plete game Thurs­day, threw 39 fourseam fast­balls and 29 two-seam fast­balls in a 7-3 win. He used one to set up the other to great ef­fect.

“We tried to mix it up throw­ing the four-seamer in­side to both right-handed hit­ters and left-handed hit­ters, and also play the two-seamer off of that,” Tigers catcher Alex Avila said. “We tried to go four-seam just to get them off the two-seam, es­pe­cially to left­ies.

“By now they know he’s got that good swing-back pitch.”

A four-seam fast­ball is gen­er­ally firmer than a two-seamer and stays on its plane. Ful­mer can ma­nip­u­late his two-seam fast­ball to run or to sink, de­pend­ing on the sit­u­a­tion. And unique to him, he main­tains up­per-90s ve­loc­ity on both.

“Yeah, the thing is, most pitch­ers who have that pitch are throw­ing it at 91 mph or so,” Avila said. “He’s throw­ing it 96-97. So even when you are ex­pect­ing it, it’s hard to re­act to it.”

Ful­mer’s four-seamer was put in play five times Thurs­day. Ac­cord­ing to MLB’s Base­ball Sa­vant, the av­er­age exit ve­loc­ity on those five balls was 69.4 mph — weak con­tact.

He got eight called strikes and three swing­ing strikes on the four-seamer.

He also got four called strikes on the two-seamer.

“To­day he had good com­mand of both,” Avila said. “You could tell, guys were tak­ing pitches they thought would be in­side and they stayed true.”

Ful­mer was also able to use his var­ied fast­balls to in­duce three dou­ble-play ground balls.

“He was able to get them to swing, think­ing it was a fourseamer,” Avila said. “But when it had sink, they hit on top of the ball.”

He earned a hat-tip from the Roy­als.

“He was tough,” Lorenzo Cain said.

“He’s very ag­gres­sive in the zone, throws a lot of strikes. He just kept mix­ing it up. First at­bat he went mostly heaters a lot of the way, sec­ond at-bat a lot of heaters. I don’t know. “He did a great job of mix­ing

his two-seam. … He was

in locked in, and did a great job of keep­ing us off-bal­ance to­day.”

Martinez’s epic at-bat

Roy­als re­liever Kevin McCarthy was ex­as­per­ated to the point of sur­ren­der.

By the time J.D. Martinez fouled off 11 pitches in the sev­enth in­ning, nine af­ter he got two strikes on him, he was just root­ing for the at-bat to end.

“I was just try­ing to give it to him,” McCarthy said. “Like, ‘ Put it in play.’ Af­ter a cou­ple, it was like, ‘ Damn. I don’t know what else to do.’ ”

Martinez nearly didn’t fin­ish the at-bat af­ter foul­ing one off his right foot — the one he sprained in the spring that cost him the first six weeks of the sea­son.

“He said he was all right, he just needed more time be­fore he fin­ished the at-bat,” man­ager Brad Aus­mus said. “It was a great at-bat.”

Martinez fouled off five more pitches af­ter tak­ing one off the foot be­fore slap­ping pitch No. 15 into left field, knock­ing in Ian Kinsler.

Kinsler un­leashed

It had been one of those stretches for Kinsler. Eleven of his pre­vi­ous 14 outs had been balls hit in the air, some hard, most lazy fly balls. It’s some­thing he’s bat­tled his en­tire ca­reer.

Thus, when he popped one up foul in his first at-bat Thurs­day, he thought, “Here we go again.”

But the ball sailed out of play. A cou­ple of pitches later, he stayed back on an off-speed pitch and lined it sharply into right field.

“I was happy that first one went out of bounds,” he said. “Happy I got an­other crack at it.”

The line-drive swing was what he’d been search­ing for and things seemed to click back in place. He hit his ninth home run of the sea­son in the third and grounded to third in the fourth.

“Just keep work­ing on what you do ev­ery day,” he said. “You try to pre­pare your­self and stay with the process.”

Robin Buck­son/Detroit News

J.D. Martinez picked up an RBI sin­gle in the sev­enth in­ning af­ter a 15-pitch bat­tle with Kevin McCarthy.

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