Fast-paced Fister leads Tigers over Phillies, 2-1
DETROIT – There was “Fists of Fury,” the Bruce Lee martial arts flick from 1971 that has become a classic.
And now the Detroit Tigers have the “Fist of Fury,” as in Doug Fister, pitching at a furious pace and dicing up the Philadelphia Phillies in a 2-1 duel with Cole Hamels. Friday night’s game was over in 2:24, and the fireworks show was done before the game usually concludes.
“He’s a good guy to pitch on fireworks night,” noted Tigers manager Jim Leyland. “He works fast.”
Leyland was making light of players trying to beat the late-departing crowds when the pyrotechnic show takes place at Comerica Park. But he liked the pace, too. It was downright 1968-like, when games always ended at about the time this one did.
And for Fister, that pace is a very important element. He always gets the ball back from the pitcher and readies to pitch quicker than almost anybody. He does this while also holding runners close and being extremely hard to steal against.
But Fister noted a “fine line” between rushing his delivery and working quickly at a steady tempo. And finding the proper balance is something he said he’s accomplished by constantly talking with Tigers pitching coach Jeff Jones.
“It’s an awareness of keeping tempo,” Fister said. “It’s about being steady, fairly quick and not rushing…I do take pride in going fast. But there’s a fine line between hurrying and the right tempo.”
Tigers catcher Alex Avila, whose two-run double in the fifth inning gave Detroit the lead it wouldn’t lose, said, “Going fast-paced helps him out. When he’s not, he falls into over-thinking and falls out of rhythm…And then it’s tougher for him to repeat his delivery.”
And repeating deliveries is how a pitcher finds his rhythm and victories.
Fister (9-5, 3.67 ERA) appears to be back on track after coming out fast this season and then sputtering. He was 3-0 with a 2.70 ERA after three starts, and then went 15 starts with only three wins. But in his last three outings, Fister has won every time and posted a 1.35 ERA and 1.05 WHIP. He’s found his groove.
The All-Star break has become as refreshing as a long power nap for Fister, who does actually snooze on a big leather clubhouse sofa before every start.
“He needed a break,” Leyland said, “and hopefully it freshened him up.”
Fister was 2-6 with a 4.75 ERA before the break last year, and then 8-4 with a 2.67 ERA the rest of the way. He struck out a franchise-record nine consecutive Kansas City Royals on Sept. 27, and maintained his prowess with a 1.40 ERA in three post-season starts.
“It’s a great, timely blow for me between the physical and mentally,” Fister said of the All-Star break. “It’s a re-boosting.”
Fister came out after throwing 109 pitches and striking out six with only one walk and three hits. The lone run against him was unearned.
He’s never won more than 11 games in one season as a professional, but appears a cinch to top that and have his first winning record in the majors. Fister has been 6-14, 11-13 and 10-10 in three full seasons with the Tigers and Seattle Mariners, who traded him to Detroit on July 30, 2011. He went 8-1 with a 1.79 ERA after the Tigers acquired him that season, beginning his trend of closing seasons with flair.
In like a lamb, out like a lion – that’s Fister.
“He’s proven to be one of the best pitchers in the second half,” said Tigers closer Joaquin Benoit, who made it 10-for-10 in save situations after taking the ball in the ninth inning.
Everything went right for Detroit in this game, but the starter set the tone.
“The key was Fister,” Leyland said. “He was terrific.”
His command, curveball and tempo were all there and working in sync.
Avila said he was like a “machine” on the mound.
Fister put away the Phillies in short order. The “Fist of Fury” was kicking quickly in his delivery and punching out batters like a baseball Bruce Lee.