Fister pitches Tigers past Rangers

Doug Fister didn’t let a 10-start losing streak bother him. So he wasn’t exactly jumping for joy after a win Wednesday night.

Fister pitched seven effective innings to win his Detroit debut while Alex Avila and Ryan Raburn homered as the Tigers beat the Texas Rangers 5-4.

”I don’t look at the big picture,” said Fister, who hadn’t won since May 30. ”The only thing I’m focused on right now is my next start.”

He does recognize that he’s in a different situation than Seattle, though, especially after the clubhouse burst into cheers when Boston’s Jacoby Ellsbury hit a game-ending homer to beat Cleveland, dropping the Indians four games behind the Tigers in the AL Central.

”It’s very exciting to be in a pennant race,” he said. ”We’re right in the middle of things.”

Fister (4-12), acquired from Seattle on July 30, earned his first victory in a span of 10 starts. He allowed two earned runs and eight hits without walking or striking out a batter.

Fister threw 99 pitches, including 73 strikes.

”He did exactly what we expected him to do,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. ”He’s going to give up some hits, because he throws so many strikes, but he gets the job done. He gets outs.”

Fister became the first Tigers starter to go seven or more innings without a walk or strikeout since Justin Verlander on May 17, 2006.

Jose Valverde pitched the ninth for his 30th save in as many tries, despite allowing a solo homer to Mike Napoli. He is now just two saves away from Willie Hernandez’s 1984 team record of 32 straight.

”He goes out there, he pitches a smart game, and he does his job,” Leyland said. ”But he does it in a fun way that I really like.”

After the final out, Valverde did a bigger victory dance than normal, then presented Fister with the game ball.

”Our guys were tickled for Fister, because he had such a great debut,” Leyland said. ”That’s why Jose made sure to get him the ball.”

Matt Harrison (9-8) took the loss, giving up four runs on nine hits and three walks in six innings.

”I got a little better after the second inning, but I never got where I wanted to be,” Harrison said. ”The only inning that they didn’t have runners on base was the sixth, and I gave up a homer in that inning.”

The Tigers scored twice in the second on RBI singles by Raburn and Avila, and added a third run in the third. Austin Jackson started the inning with a bunt single and scored on Miguel Cabrera’s double.

Detroit’s defense, though, let the Rangers back into the game. In the fourth, Josh Hamilton doubled and scored on Nelson Cruz’s double. Fister should have been out of the inning, but third baseman Wilson Betemit misplayed Napoli’s grounder, allowing Cruz to score an unearned run.

In the fifth, the Rangers had runners on the corners with two out when Hamilton hit what looked like a routine double-play ball, but shortstop Jhonny Peralta threw wildly to first, allowing Yorvit Torrealba to score.

Avila gave the Tigers a 4-3 lead in the sixth with his second homer in as many nights. After driving in one run in July, Avila has five in two August games.

Raburn gave the Tigers a two-run lead with an eighth-inning homer before Napoli homered off Valverde.

”We tried to scramble back in the ninth, but that’s a tough guy to score runs against,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said.

NOTES: The teams complete the three-game series on Thursday afternoon, with Detroit’s Brad Penny facing Alexi Ogando of the Rangers. … Ogando is 2-0 with a 0.61 ERA in two starts against the Tigers, and will be trying to become the first pitcher in the majors to beat Detroit three times this season. … Penny will be making his 22nd start of the season, with 15 of them coming in day games. … Magglio Ordonez grounded into double plays in his first two at-bats, then singled and was promptly erased when Cabrera hit into a double play. In his fourth at-bat, he was spared further DP misery by coming up with two outs.