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James McCann, Michael Fulmer guide Detroit Tigers past Tampa Bay Rays

By Dana Gauruder, The Sports Xchange
James McCann, Michael Fulmer guide Detroit Tigers past Tampa Bay Rays
Detroit Tigers' J.D. Martinez (28) is congratulated by James McCann (34). Photo by David Tulis/UPI | License Photo

DETROIT -- James McCann gave Michael Fulmer some sage advice early in the game. Then, McCann came through with the game's biggest hit in the late going to hand the rookie pitcher his first victory at Comerica Park.

McCann hit his first homer of the season and Fulmer had a career-high 11 strikeouts as the Detroit Tigers held off the Tampa Bay Rays 5-4 on Saturday.

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The game was marred by a severe hand injury to Tampa Bay Gold Glove center fielder Kevin Kiermaier. He suffered two fractures in his left hand while diving for McCann's bloop single in the fifth inning. He will fly to the team's training facility in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday and be re-evaluated on Monday.

McCann, who came into the game batting .127, followed Cameron Maybin's leadoff single in the seventh with a blast over the left-center field wall to break a 1-1 deadlock. McCann has been putting in extra work in the batting cage, trying to get out of his deep slump.

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"It's very satisfying to get results but even more satisfying is (Friday) night I had one hit but all four at-bats were positive," the Detroit catcher said. "I'm hitting the ball on the barrel, making hard contact and having quality at-bats."

Fulmer had a 6.52 ERA in four road starts after being called up from Triple-A Toledo. In his home debut, Fulmer featured a devastating changeup to complement his 96 MPH fastball. That allowed him to pile up the strikeouts.

"I told him early on we're going to use it and let you get a feel for it," McCann said of the changeup. "He had a feel for it from the second batter on. It was really his X-factor today."

RELATED Tampa Bay Rays CF Kevin Kiermaier breaks left hand

Fulmer (3-1) struck out two batters in five different innings. He allowed one run, four hits and one walk in seven innings and departed to a standing ovation.

"I just wanted to pound the zone," he said. "I've been wanting to do that for the past four starts, too. Luckily tonight, everything was working. I got the chills coming off the mound in the seventh."

Maybin had three hits, including a solo homer, and is batting .647 since coming off the 15-day disabled list on Monday.

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J.D. Martinez added a two-run homer in the seventh for Detroit, which has won five of its last six games. Francisco Rodriguez posted his 12th save of the season.

Tampa Bay scored three eighth-inning runs, highlighted by a two-run triple from Brad Miller, but couldn't complete the comeback.

It's unknown how long the Rays will be without their star centerfielder but he'll obviously require an extended period of recovery.

"It just quieted our entire dugout," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "We all know the energy he brings to our team on a daily basis. We'll have to work together to get through it."

Evan Longoria homered for the Rays, who had a four-game winning streak snapped. Starter Drew Smyly (2-5) allowed three runs and seven hits in 7 1/3 innings.

Kiermaier was 0-for-2, ending an eight-game hitting streak. The Rays also saw their franchise-record tying streak of six consecutive games with at least six runs scored come to a halt.

They finally ran into a pitcher they couldn't solve.

"We just couldn't quite figure the guy out and with good explanation," Cash said. "The changeup he was featuring was filthy."

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Leading off the bottom of the third, Maybin drilled a 2-1 pitch from Smyly over the left-field wall to give Detroit the lead.

Fulmer struck out the first two batters he faced in the sixth before Longoria cleared the left-field wall with his eighth homer of the season. It was also Longoria's 500th career extra-base hit.

NOTES: Rays manager Kevin Cash notched his 100th career win on Friday. "You don't want to dwell on too many personal accolades but it is pretty special," he said. ... Tampa Bay RHP Brad Boxberger, who underwent adductor surgery in early April, was scheduled to make his third rehab appearance at Triple-A Durham on Saturday night. Cash said that Boxberger, the team's closer last season, needs to pitch on consecutive nights before he's activated from the 15-day disabled list. ... Tigers RHP Shane Greene is scheduled to make his next rehab start with Triple-A Toledo on Wednesday. Greene, who was placed on the disabled list April 29 with a blister on his pitching hand, threw three scoreless innings for Single-A West Michigan on Friday. ... 1B Miguel Cabrera's two-homer night on Friday gave him 26 multi-homer games in his Detroit career, tying him for third place with Willie Horton. Only Hank Greenberg (32) and Cecil Fielder (29) have more multi-homer games in franchise history.

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