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Fister keeps dealing as Tigers take opener

Right-hander works quickly, efficiently to pick up fourth straight win

DETROIT -- Doug Fister gave fair warning to his teammates before he took the mound.

"Walking in from the bullpen talking to [catcher Brayan] Pena, I said, 'Hey, we're going to get a lot of ground balls today,'" he said.

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DETROIT -- Doug Fister gave fair warning to his teammates before he took the mound.

"Walking in from the bullpen talking to [catcher Brayan] Pena, I said, 'Hey, we're going to get a lot of ground balls today,'" he said.

Full Game Coverage

Little more than two hours later, they were done. The White Sox, having watched Fister work eight innings in just 88 pitches en route to a 2-1 Tigers win, had barely gotten started.

"The umpire, he said, 'Hey, does he know that we're not in Spring Training? He knows that we're on TV? He needs to give me a break,'" Pena said, referring to home-plate umpire Paul Emmel. "That's how fast he was, but his rhythm today was unbelievable."

Tigers players who have been around Fister for a while can believe it.

"That's the thing about Fister," second baseman Ramon Santiago said. "He doesn't let you fall asleep."

The way Fister and the Tigers have been going lately, it was another day at the office. Their sixth win in a row was their fifth holding their opponent to one run or less. In that stretch, their starters have held opponents to six earned runs on 27 hits over 45 innings.

They've won 10 of their last 11 and held the other team to two runs or less in nine of them. And yet, none of those games were quite like this one.

Manager Jim Leyland said recently that Fister was a good pitcher to use on a fireworks night, because he could pitch quickly. On Friday, he pitched with such efficiency that the sun had barely set by the time Joaquin Benoit retired Adam Dunn to strand the potential tying run on second base and rack up his 11th save in as many chances.

The resulting 2-hour, 7-minute game was 12 minutes faster than any other contest the Tigers had played this season, and faster than any Tigers game at Comerica Park since Sept. 8, 2010.

"That reminded me of when Kenny [Rogers] pitched," infield coach Rafael Belliard said.

Rogers was a tone-setter for the Tigers. When he got rolling, he would essentially play catch with his catcher, controlling the tempo and using it to his advantage. This was that kind of game, only Fister kept it up-tempo for the entire night, barely giving hitters time to gather themselves.

Fister had 13 ground-ball outs and just three fly balls for his outfielders, and he didn't cross the 80-pitch mark until his final inning. He kept his infielders busy, and they returned the favor.

It began in the first inning, when Jhonny Peralta went deep into the hole to run down Paul Konerko's ground ball and fired off balance to second base with just enough time to get the force out on Dunn and strand Alex Rios at third base.

Peralta had five assists by the end of the fifth inning. Jose Iglesias, whose trade from Boston earlier in the week set him up as Peralta's possible successor, filled in for injured Miguel Cabrera at third base and turned a key double play in the third inning.

They had fortune on their side, too. When pinch-runner Jordan Danks got off to a tremendous jump on a hit-and-run play in the eighth, only to watch Gordon Beckham hit a sharp ground ball up the middle right to the spot where Santiago was scrambling to cover second base, the White Sox had to wonder what else they could do.

"Gordon is a good contact guy and you figure he's got a good shot doing that," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "It's one of those right at [Santiago]. … The game is cruel sometimes."

By contrast, Iglesias' two-out blooper in the fourth inning was hit just softly enough to drop in front of Rios in right field, making Iglesias' first hit as a Tiger an RBI single to open the scoring. It was an escape from an 0-2 count, and it completed a adventurous trip around the bases for Prince Fielder that began with a slow ground ball just inside first base and out of Dunn's reach for a leadoff double, and it continued with a tumbling, nearly leg-wrenching slide into third base on Victor Martinez's flyout to center.

Austin Jackson's fifth-inning solo homer accounted for the other tally.

"First day, everything happened so quick," Iglesias said. "But I'm happy to be here."

It wasn't just him. Once Fister struck out Josh Phegley for the second time to end the eighth inning, he became the first Tigers pitcher to complete eight innings in less than 90 pitches since Rick Porcello put up eight scoreless innings in Pittsburgh two years ago. The same reasoning that day prompted Leyland to go to his closer.

All that stood between him and the complete game was the top of the White Sox order. That included Alexei Ramirez and Rios, who had produced Chicago's only one with a double and single their previous time up in the sixth.

"I thought in the later innings they started to center him a little bit," Leyland explained. "They got a few hits there late and even Beckham on the hit-and-run hit it hard. I thought at that point in the game I didn't want him to see the top of the order again. Ramirez had hit the double. Rios had knocked in the run. Dunn had a couple hits. Those are the guys he's going to have to get out in the ninth inning, and that's hard to do a fourth time."

Fister settled for his fourth consecutive win, the last three since the All-Star break. The Tigers took the quick night.

"He said, 'You guys make sure that you guys are ready, because I'm going to give you guys a lot of action today,'" Pena said. "And that was exactly what he did."

Bobby Nightengale is an associate reporter for


Detroit Tigers, Doug Fister