DETROIT — On a staff with one pitcher who already has a Cy Young and an MVP (Justin Verlander), another who is the leading contender to win this season’s Cy Young (Max Scherzer), and another who led the American League in ERA in 2013 (Anibal Sanchez), Doug Fister realizes how he could be seen as the George Harrison of the rotation — the underappreciated Beatle.
His credentials are there.
He finished with more wins than Verlander this season (if only by one).
And just two years ago, he went 7⅓ innings, giving up just two runs in a crucial American League Championship Series Game 3 win over the Texas Rangers.
With the Tigers down two games to one and the Red Sox snatching the momentum of this year’s ALCS with a 1-0 win in Game 3 on Tuesday, he’ll make another critical postseason start Wednesday night.
In a series in which every game’s been decided by one run, where he fits on the Tigers’ totem pole of pitchers is the least of his worries.
“I think my perception of it is the fact that I’m here,” Fister said. “I want to be here. I want to be a part of the team. When I’m asked to pitch, that’s when I go out there, whether I’m in the bullpen or in the starting rotation. That’s my thing. I want to be a part of the team. I want to go out there and perform with the best of them.
“Whatever that takes, whatever that calls for, that’s where I want to be. Obviously I look up to those other guys. They’ve performed very well this year and in years past. It’s something special for me to be a part of.”
In Game 4 of the ALDS, Fister’s only posteason start thus far, he gave up three runs on seven hits. Even though he didn’t factor into the decision, he went six innings in a game the Tigers came away with an 8-6 win.
While Verlander and Sanchez are known for their power, Fister is known for his efficiency.
“I think that a lot of that is the fact of coming to terms with what you do and do it well,” Fister said. “I’m not a strikeout guy. I’m a guy that goes out and gets ground balls. That’s my job. That’s what I want to do. I want to go out there and get bad contact as much as possible in the early three pitches of the count. And I have to rely on the team. And that’s where we’re all at, we rely on each other. And to go out there and do our job and put up zeroes, and that’s our biggest goal, we’re going to go out and put up a W.”
His biggest strength was inducing double plays, getting a team-high 26 of them. Four of them came against the Red Sox.
“He’s got the ability to get two outs with one pitch,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “He controls the running game. Everything moves as it comes across home plate. He might not have the sheer power and velocity the other three guys have in this rotation, but he does it a little differently.”
Coke comes through
Two pitches from Phil Coke were fuel enough to second-guess manager Jim Leyland’s decision not to use him in Game 2 against David Ortiz.
The reason Leyland decided not to use the veteran lefthander against Ortiz in Game 2 even though Ortiz was 2 for 18 lifetime against Coke was that he wanted to find a less pressurized situation than facing the Sox’s most dangerous hitter with the bases loaded and a chance to tie the game in the eighth inning.
When Coke took the mound Tuesday with none on and one out in the ninth, the situation wasn’t as tense but the outcome was much better for the Tigers.
With two pitches, Coke got Ortiz to ground to second, then his job was done.
“For me to be in there in a one-run game, late in the innings, nobody on, one out, I just go out there and do the best job that I can, that’s exactly what I did,” Coke said. “Unfortunately we weren’t able to get the two or three hits that we needed at the end of the game there.”
Before those two pitches could be used to second guess Leyland’s Game 2 decision, Coke said his manager made the right move by going with closer Joaquin Benoit even though he ultimately gave up the tying grand slam that shifted the game and the series.
“Benoit’s been huge for us all season long,” Coke said. “So I don’t see any issue with the way it played out as far as the people used the other night. I fully expected to see Benoit in there at some point in time like that anyway. Pressure situation, need outs and you’ve got to face the big guy in their lineup and he’s been successful at that all season.”
The five-pitch walk Austin Jackson worked against Craig Breslow in the eighth inning was just the second free pass in eight postseason games this season.
After posting a .337 on-base percentage in the regular season, the Tigers’ leadoff hitter has struggled to get on in the playoffs, going just 1 for 13 in the ALCS with a single in his second at-bat in Game 1 and five strikeouts after going 2 for 20 with 13 whiffs in the ALDS against Oakland.
“I’m just trying to get out there and get in scoring position and score runs,” he said. “That’s my job. I haven’t been doing the best job of that, but I’m battling. I’m going up there just trying to have a good at-bat.”
Torii Hunter’s 2-for-4 day was the first trace of production out of the top of the order for the Tigers this series.
He added a single to right in the eighth to give the Tigers a first-and-third threat but Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder stuck out.
Victor Martinez’s status is uncertain after grabbing at his left leg as he rounded first on his leadoff single in the ninth. Martinez, who had surgery on his left knee in 2012, left for a pinch runner. “I’ll have to check that when I go back to the clubhouse,” Leyland said. “I usually wait and come down here first before I check around. I’m not really sure about that one right now.” . . . Tigers pitchers have struck out 11-plus in four straight games, one shy of their postseason record . . . Lance Parrish, who played 10 of his 19 seasons for the Tigers, including their 1984 World Series season, threw out the first pitch.
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.