Fister shuts down Indians to avoid sweep

Doug Fister in his groove is a perfect fit for Detroit's rotation as they make their final playoff push.

DETROIT — When Doug Fister is on, he works fast and is nearly unhittable.

With Justin Verlander being Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer making huge strides, wouldn't a Fister in his groove be a perfect fit for the Tigers' rotation as they make their final push for the playoffs?

Fister was nearly that pitcher Wednesday night, helping the Tigers salvage a 7-1 victory after the Cleveland Indians took the first two games of the series.

Fister (8-8) allowed just one run on four hits while walking one and striking out six in seven innings.

The Indians managed to get three hits in the fourth, which is when they scored their lone run.

Manager Jim Leyland was more than pleased, but still feels there's another level that Fister can reach.

"I thought he was much sharper (Wednesday night)," Leyland said. "I don't think he was razor sharp yet, which I think he'll be probably be close to that the next time. I think he went 11 days and then he started that last game where he was rusty and then (Wednesday night) he was much better. I expect him to get better as he goes, because he's a control pitcher."

Catcher Alex Avila agreed that Wednesday was better but still not the vintage Fister of a year ago, the one that went 8-1 with a 1.79 ERA when he came to the Tigers.

"There’s still some innings where you could see he’s fighting himself a little bit," Avila said. "The inning where he gave up the run, he just kind of lost his command for an inning there. That’s going to happen, although sometimes we’ve seen Doug not have any command issues at all. Lately, he’s been pretty good, consistent."

As for the man himself, he seemed to feel he's not too far away from where he wants to be, and from where the Tigers need him to be down the stretch.

"I definitely feel like we’re making some strides in that direction," Fister said. "Still some fine-tuning we need to get done, but that’s every day. That’s what we need to do, come in, get the work in, but that’s kind of where we’re headed."

Fister has had a bit of an up-and down season, from having to leave his first start of the year because of a strained left side, which landed him on the disabled list two times, to a recent groin injury that sidelined him for one start.

Fister pitched against the Baltimore Orioles despite a problem with his groin while warming up. The results were not Fisteresque, as he allowed seven runs on eight hits while walking three and striking out six in 3 2/3 innings.

In his first start since recovering from the groin injury, Fister allowed three runs (two earned) on four hits while walking four and striking out two in five innings against the Chicago White Sox.

The walks in those two starts were a good indication that Fister was not up to his usual form. Against the Orioles, it was because of the injury. Against the White Sox, it was because of rust from having skipped a start.

When Fister is on, he works quickly and deep into games. Pitching seven innings Wednesday night after five the last time is a good indication of improvement.

Thinking of what a healthy Fister can do definitely makes his manager excited.

"He's getting closer to the Fister we know and pitched very well (Wednesday night) against a really good-hitting team," Leyland said. "So hopefully he can keep that up. This would be a great time to get sharp and he was much sharper (Wednesday night) and I look for him to get even sharper, control-wise. I don't know if the results will be any better but I'm just talking about control-wise."

Fister's next start will be a big one, on the road Sept. 11, against the team they trail by one game in the Central Division. If he keeps improving, it could be a long night for the White Sox.