It happened last season and it’s happening now when he starts.
Everyone remembers last season when the right-hander arrived and went 8-1 with a miniscule 1.79 ERA and the Tigers ran away with the Central Division.
Fister has had trouble staying healthy this season, with two stints on the disabled list because of a left side strain, and then a more recent groin issue.
Tuesday Fister (9-8) looked a lot like that pitcher from last season, leading the Tigers (74-67) to a 5-3 victory over the Chicago White Sox (76-65) by allowing just two runs on two hits (solo home runs by Dewayne Wise and Gordon Beckham) while walking two and striking out six in seven innings.
It was the Tigers’ first win in five games on the road trip and brought them back up to two games behind the White Sox in the division.
“I thought Fister was obviously terrific,” manager Jim Leyland told FOX Sports Detroit’s Trevor Thompson on the postgame show. “There was a lot of things in this game, but Dougie was just terrific. He gave up just the two solo home runs. He pitched a great game.”
In his 11 starts since the All-Star break, Fister is 7-2 with a 2.49 ERA, allowing opponents just a .202 average. He has 18 walks and 68 strikeouts in that span.
“Personally I feel like, yeah, things are starting to work in the right direction again and just kind of fine-tuning and constantly changing and manipulating things,” Fister said. “Just trying to make the fine-tune adjustments.”
Fister’s teammates realize the impact that their lanky pitcher can have on the fortunes of the team.
“He was good,” Austin Jackson told Thompson on the field after the game. “Once we got ahead, he kept that lead for us. He’s been doing that all year long. He’s been pitching great. He’s a great competitor. When you’re going out there and playing behind a guy like that, you’re leaving it all out there on the field.”
However, if not for Jackson, Fister might have suffered a Rick Porcello-like fate. Porcello has pitched well in his last six starts, allowing just 17 total runs, but the offense has not come through, resulting in a six-game personal skid for the 23-year-old.
It was beginning to look like that would happen to Fister, as the White Sox held a 2-0 lead until the fifth inning.
But Jackson, who was left stranded in the first inning, hit a game-tying home run off Jake Peavy. It was Jackson’s first home run in a month.
That seemed to open the floodgates a bit as Miguel Cabrera also hit a home run that inning to give the Tigers the lead.
“It was good to get things rolling a little bit,” Jackson said. “It kind of got contagious there a little bit. Peavy, he’s a tough pitcher. You’ve got to kind of take what you can get off him. We had to battle him.”
The Tigers got two more runs in the eighth on RBI singles by Alex Avila and Andy Dirks.
“We just needed to get back in the swing of things,” Jackson said. “We had a little sour taste in our mouth from Anaheim so we really wanted to come out and keep putting up the effort and keep battling. That’s the main thing.”
The Tigers improved to 53-12 when scoring five or more runs.
Now it’s up to starters Max Scherzer (Wednesday) and Justin Verlander (Thursday) and, the Tigers hope, an awakened offense.
“It’s down to two again with quite a few games left, they’ll have (Gavin) Floyd in there,” Leyland said.
“He’s been tough on us. Scherzer’s been pitching great, it should be a great matchup. Obviously it’s either going to be one or three (Wednesday). We’ll just come out and play the way we played (Tuesday night). I thought the guys were loosey-goosey, I thought they felt better about themselves, for whatever reason. I’m not saying it just because we won, because we had some home runs and good pitching.