Michael Fulmer apologized.
He had nothing to apologize for.
Neither did Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, who was met by boos when he walked onto the field to take out Fulmer and bring in Justin Wilson to record the 27th out.
Fulmer was given the opportunity to finish a complete game shutout. But the 27th out proved too difficult. Fulmer gave up a couple hits, then a two-run double in the ninth. An error by Justin Upton led to a third run for the Kansas City Royals.
That’s when Ausmus decided he needed to bring in the closer.
“I said, ‘Sorry, Skip,’ ” Fulmer recalled of the conversation he had before leaving the mound at Comerica Park on Thursday afternoon. “I didn’t want to have him use anybody from the bullpen. He kind of looked at me and said, ‘Don’t apologize for anything.’ ”
Wilson struck out Brandon Moss and the Tigers defeated the Royals, 7-3. The Tigers won their second straight series against the Royals this season. Now they’ll try to gain more ground in the division when they host the American League Central-leading Cleveland Indians for four games, starting Friday night.
“Offense did their job, defense did their job, obviously Alex (Avila) did his,” Fulmer said. “Just one out short. It happens.
“Felt like stuff was good all game. Even that ninth inning, I get two quick outs. Wasn’t trying to overdo anything. They fouled off some great pitches and ultimately just found holes that one inning.”
Fulmer cracked a smile when asked about the difficulty getting the 27th out.
“I’ve only done it once in my career,” he said. “Obviously it’s a little elusive. They stayed aggressive all day and you gotta give credit to them for not giving up there in the ninth, down seven.”
Ausmus said he felt the momentum was shifting and didn’t want to wait any longer to bring in Wilson.
“Trust me, I want to see Michael Fulmer go nine innings too,” Ausmus said.
Fulmer allowed two three runs (two earned) on seven hits over 8 2/3 innings. He didn’t give up a walk and struck out seven.
It was the second-longest outing of Fulmer’s career. He had a complete game shutout against the Texas Rangers on Aug. 14, 2016.
Fulmer extended his streak of not allowing a home run to 73 2/3 innings, the longest active streak in the majors.
The Tigers hit three home runs off Royals right-handed pitcher Jakob Junis.
The Tigers' first four batters reached base in the first inning. Ian Kinsler singled to right, Alex Avila drew a walk, and Justin Upton followed with his 15th home run of the season, a three-run shot to center.
Kinsler led off the bottom of the third with his ninth home run of the season to give the Tigers a 4-0 lead. Kinsler finished 2-for-3 with a walk and three runs scored.
Upton and Miguel Cabrera each had two hits for the Tigers.
After a one-out single by Mikie Mahtook, Andrew Romine hit a two-run home run to right in the fourth to give the Tigers a six-run cushion. It was Romine’s third home run of the season.
J.D. Martinez ended a 15-pitch at-bat with an RBI single in the seventh to put the Tigers ahead, 7-0.
The Royals’ first hit came in the fourth, a leadoff single by Ramon Torres. But Fulmer induced Jorge Bonifacio to ground into a 6-4-3 double play and Lorenzo Cain flied out to right.
Fulmer gave up a leadoff single to Eric Hosmer in the fifth inning, but Salvador Perez stuck out and Mike Moustakas grounded into a 4-6-3 double play.
Alex Gordon lined a two-out single off the leg of Fulmer in the sixth inning. But Torres struck out swinging at a slider.
Fulmer gave up a one-out single to Moustakas in the eighth inning, then had Jorge Soler ground into a 5-4-3 double play.
With two outs in the ninth, Fulmer allowed a single to left to Torres, then a single to right by Bonifacio. Butera then doubled to left-center.
"Torres, he did damage on a fastball down and away," Fulmer said. "I pounded him in, pounded him in. Then went change-up away. Meant to bury it. Just kind of left it. It was a good, quality strike. He just stuck his bat out there and got a hit to left. Then a couple more base hits."
Fulmer threw 104 pitches, 77 for strikes. Fulmer’s season-high for pitches is 110 on April 12 against the Minnesota Twins.
Ausmus acknowledged he could have left him in to try and get the final out. But he was also trying to win the game.
“Obviously, they’re rooting for us on the field,” Fulmer said of the boos Ausmus received. “Obviously, it’s a big step to get a complete game there, but like I said, I don’t blame him for the move at all.”