Tigers have slim playoff hopes as they face Royals

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Managers and players always talk about not giving up, whether it’s fighting until the 27th out of a game or battling until the postseason chances are officially eliminated.

The latter is the case for the Kansas City Royals as they were eliminated with Tuesday’s loss to St. Louis. The Detroit Tigers are hanging by the slimmest of threads heading into the opener of a four-game series Thursday night in Kansas City. The Tigers will be eliminated with a loss or a win by Houston.

The four-game series will be all about the future, even though it’s hard to accept the fact that the postseason is out of reach.

“I think my emotions have been pretty consistent except in the fourth inning (Tuesday) night, maybe,” said Royals manager Mike Matheny, who received his first ejection in Tuesday’s game against the Cardinals. “I don’t ever want to feel good about us not winning. I won’t do this job anymore if that day ever comes.

“You guys have heard me pound the table here for quite a while now, but I believe more now in this group than I did the first time I started pounding the table. I just need them to continue to take the steps and believe in themselves as much as we do.

The Tigers will have Michael Fulmer (0-2, 8.17 ERA) as their starter for Thursday’s game, while the Royals will send rookie Kris Bubic (1-6, 3.97 ERA) to the mound. The win-loss record doesn’t speak to how well Bubic has thrown, especially lately, but the ERA says plenty.

In his last outing in Milwaukee, Bubic gave up one run on one hit in 5 1/3 innings. He struck out seven. The run was unearned, but it was plenty costly as the Royals lost 5-0. The Brewers scored four runs in the eighth inning off the Royals bullpen.

“His best yet,” Matheny said after that outing. “It’s one of those indicators of things to come in my mind. No question the best breaking ball he’s had so far. It had late break, it had bite. And that made his changeup all the better because they had to worry about two other weapons.”

Bubic, who will be making his first appearance against the Tigers, has been strong lately, with a 1.99 ERA (five earned runs in 22 2/3 innings) in his last four starts.

Fulmer has not pitched more than three innings in nine starts this season, his first since Tommy John surgery. But after giving up nine earned runs on 13 hits in five innings combined in his prior two starts, he pitched well in his last outing. He gave up no runs and just one hit in three innings against Cleveland.

“That’s the best three innings that he’s had,” then-manager Ron Gardenhire said after the Cleveland start. “I mean, everything looked really good.”

Fulmer knows this year was necessary as he learns to pitch again.

“I feel like I know how to manipulate a ball a lot better as far as spin, especially on the fastball — a little cut here, a little sink there,” Fulmer said after that same game. “I think, just (my) command is a lot better going forward, as well.

“I know it hasn’t been very sharp this year, but I think the past few starts have been a lot better, more efficient mechanics, less stress on the body and I think the velocity will ultimately come back next year, for sure. I just have to work with what I have.”

Fulmer is 2-5 with a 4.55 ERA in 10 career starts against the Royals.

–Field Level Media

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