Fulmer settles in to pitch a career-high 8 innings

Tigers rookie retires 15 of the final 17 Royals he faces

Fulmer settles in to pitch a career-high 8 innings

DETROIT -- Rookie Michael Fulmer entered Sunday's outing against the Royals with a streak of nine straight starts allowing one or no earned runs. The Royals ended that streak in the third inning, but then Fulmer settled in to retire 15 of the last 17 batters he faced as the Tigers won the rubber match of the series, 4-2, at Comerica Park.

Fulmer allowed two earned runs on six hits and a walk over eight innings, the longest outing of his young Major League career.

Sunday's game was a must win for the Tigers, Fulmer said, as the team is trying to fight for a playoff spot in the second half of the season.

"No matter how it got done, as long as we took two of three from those guys, then we're happy," Fulmer said. "I think the second half is off to a good start, and hopefully we keep rolling."

Despite the quality outing, Fulmer said he thought he could have been better. He gave up an RBI single to Eric Hosmer for the second run of the game, and he immediately knew he wanted that pitch back. Fulmer said he relied too heavily on his fastball during the first three innings, when the Royals got their two runs and four of their six hits.

Tigers manager Brad Ausmus continues to be impressed by Fulmer's pitching as a rookie, saying he has great poise on the mound.

"For me, other than how his changeup has come along so quickly since he got to the big leagues, and the streak of less than two earned runs, I think it's remarkable that a young pitcher like this is able to keep his pitch count down," Ausmus said.

Fulmer's ERA actually rose from 2.11 to 2.13. That puts into perspective how dominant Fulmer has been since developing a solid changeup early in the season.

Francisco Rodriguez picked up the win with a perfect ninth inning before Jarrod Saltalamacchia's walk-off homer. Rodriguez, like Ausmus, continues to be amazed by Fulmer's success, comparing him to John Lackey at the beginning of his career.

Salty's walk-off two-run blast

"[Lackey and I] came up together through the Minor Leagues and to the big leagues," Rodriguez said. "[Fulmer] is a bulldog [like Lackey]. He's not afraid to have the confidence to say, 'I'm going to get the job done. I don't care who I am facing or what the situation is.' He has no fear."

It was just Fulmer's fourth home start this season. He is 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA at Comerica Park.

Kyle Beery is a reporter for MLB.com based in Detroit. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.