Low-key Fister gets the job done in Game 4
DETROIT -- If it is possible for a 6'8" man to get lost in a crowd, Doug Fister would be the one.
He's already the forgotten man of the Tigers pitching rotation -- not a Cy Young winner like Justin Verlander and, quite soon, Max Scherzer, and without an ERA championship and a 17-strikeout game like Anibal Sanchez.
He doesn't throw 97 mph like the other three, and his interview style comes right out of Crash Davis' lessons from Bull Durham.
Even his hobbies are low-key. While other players kill time before games with music, videos and iPads, Fister roams stadiums with his camera, taking pictures from interesting locations.
Wednesday, though, being a little bit dull was exactly what the Tigers and their fans needed.
Fister didn't threaten with a no-hitter and he didn't strike out double-figure batters -- he just pitched his game. In six innings, he only allowed one run and handed the struggling bullpen a six-run cushion.
"It's a lot of fun to watch Doug when he's pitching like that," said Drew Smyly, who added 1 2/3 perfect innings of relief later in the game. "He just gets locked in, and he goes right after guys. He was fantastic out there."
Smyly knows exactly how good Detroit's entire rotation is -- the fact that he couldn't crack it is what caused his transformation into a late-inning relief specialist.
"Our rotation has been so impressive in the postseason, but that doesn't surprise any of us," he said. "That rotation is the reason we're here right now. It isn't just Justin, Max and Anibal, it is Doug and Rick (Porcello), too."
Fister is one of the fastest workers in baseball, so his biggest enemy on Wednesday was probably the glacial pace of postseason games.
"Those long commercial breaks between innings were just killing him," Torii Hunter said. "He just wants to get the ball and start going, and he had to wait around for TV to be ready again."
He also had to wait through Detroit's five-run, nine-batter second inning, which, of course, he didn't let excite him.
"It doesn't matter to me if we are up 7-0 or down 5, I'm still going to approach the game like it is 0-0," Fister said, quoting his own first rule of pitching. "I'm going to go out there and try to put up a zero every inning and get the offense back on the field."
Fister faced a crucial moment in the next inning, facing David Ortiz with two on and two out.
Ortiz's grand slam in Game 2 is the reason the Red Sox are still in this series, but Fister ... well, he doesn't think about things like that.
"It doesn't matter who is at the plate or how many guys are on base," he said, moving smoothly to rule No. 2. "You have to focus on every pitch, because that could be the one that changes the game.
"These games are so tight that they are all going to come down to one or two pitches, so if you lose focus and make a mistake, it can cost your team the game."
The modest, unassuming nature does slip at times -- no one has more fun during Detroit's victory celebrations than Fister -- but he's entirely serious when he says things like "I'm just one of 25 guys out there." That's why his teammates are so willing to praise him, knowing that he won't do it for himself.
"Doug was great tonight," Alex Avila said. "He mixed things up, moved the ball in and out and did a pretty good job. He's just like a lot of us on this team. We're a pretty businesslike, methodical group, and we're probably a little boring.
"That's fine, because we're always ready to play."
SETTING RECORDS: While Fister only struck out seven batters in his six innings, the Tigers are still on base to shatter the LCS record for whiffs by a starting rotation.
The Tigers have 42 through four games, and only need seven more to catch Atlanta's record, set in the seven-game 1991 NLCS.
Detroit, which set a major-league record for strikeouts by a team in the regular season, also has a very good shot at breaking Arizona's record for any postgame series, set when Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling helped them strike out 51 Yankees over seven games of the 2001 World Series.
Detroit's hitters are also getting into the record hunt, as Victor Martinez's 15 hits are only two away from Carlos Guillen's postseason record, set in 2006. Sean Casey and Placido Polanco each had 16 hits that year, while Delmon Young and Omar Infante had 15 last season.
On the other hand, Prince Fielder has an outside shot of setting a record that he'd much rather avoid. He has now gone 16 straight postseason games without an RBI, just eight short of Bill Mueller's mark. Fielder went 0-for-4 on Wednesday and left without speaking to the media.