Fulmer pitching himself into rare company

Fulmer pitching himself into rare company

NEW YORK -- Left-hander Matt Boyd grinned, turned to his right and snuck a peak at the unoccupied locker next to him displaying a placard with Michael Fulmer's name.

"He's got great stuff and he believes in it. I think that's the big separator right now with him," Boyd said after Fulmer tossed six scoreless innings to earn the win in Detroit's 4-1 victory over the Yankees. "It's fun to watch every time he goes out there. Every time he goes out, he puts us in a position to win."

The Tigers have won in each of Fulmer's past seven starts, but he's reached a different level over his past five outings. With Sunday's gem, during which he allowed two hits, he's now pitched 28 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings, the second-longest streak in franchise history according to the Elias Sports Bureau (John Hiller tossed 28 2/3 shutout frames in 1967).

After Sunday's game, in which he allowed two hits and struck out three, Fulmer praised everyone around him; his coaching staff for believing in him, catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia for calling a smart game, and his outfielders for making tough catches.

But has Fulmer put his historic stretch in perspective?

"I'm just looking to go out and give my team a chance to win and put up zeros while I'm at it," Fulmer said. "Just let the defense play. I've got seven guys behind me that obviously do this for a living. They do it very well."

Manager Brad Ausmus was more complimentary of his rookie, citing Fulmer's decision to add a changeup to his repertoire.

"In Spring Training, it was a work in progress," Ausmus said. "And suddenly, it emerged as a viable Major League pitch."

Fulmer said he first threw the changeup in 2012 in the Minors. He didn't use it very often, but he kept working on it. It wasn't ready.

Then, before his start against the Rays on May 21, he threw the changeup "about 30 times," in the bullpen.

"Something just clicked," Fulmer said.

The rookie allowed one earned a run -- a solo homer to Evan Longoria in the sixth -- before settling down to help the Tigers capture a 5-4 win.

He hasn't surrendered a run since.

"I don't think he's a rookie anymore," Boyd said. "I think he got his rookie year out in Spring Training."

Fulmer is making a lot of history for a rookie. In addition to the scoreless-innings streak, after Sunday's performance, he became the second Major League pitcher to record at least six shutout innings and allow three or fewer hits in four starts in a row since 1893.

The other? Reigning National League Cy Young Award winner and Cubs ace Jake Arrieta.

"He's been very good in this one-month span," Ausmus said. "I want him to be this good the rest of his life."

Joshua Needelman is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.