Fiers puts on show for interested market in win

Starter throws 6 1/3 shutout frames vs. red-hot Red Sox as non-waiver Trade Deadline looms

July 21st, 2018

DETROIT -- The better Mike Fiers pitches for the Tigers, the more likely it is that he'll become a former Tiger. As can attest, that's how the non-waiver Trade Deadline works.

"I have to start pitching bad? Is that what you're trying to say?" Fiers teased after shutting down the Red Sox's offense for 6 1/3 innings in Detroit's 5-0 win Saturday night at Comerica Park.

Fiers knows the process. He has been through it already, traded to the Astros at the Deadline three years ago in a deal that brought to Houston and sent four eventual big leaguers to Milwaukee. It's what the Tigers had in mind when they signed Fiers last offseason during their rebuild.

It wasn't about keeping up with the Red Sox, though Tigers pitching has held Boston scoreless for 17 consecutive innings this series. The 33-year-old's Tigers tenure was about helping Fiers get back to form, then helping Detroit accumulate prospects to someday contend again. Now, with shelved with a left oblique strain, Fiers could be Detroit's most attractive trade candidate, with scouts beginning to gather.

"Oh yeah, you see it," Fiers said. "You see your name pop up here and there. But it happens all the time. I just have to keep my mind focused on baseball and pitching, and go out there every fifth day. … Whether I go to a different team or not, it's still baseball. Just play in a different city. But right now, I'm playing for the Tigers, and I'm playing here."

Fiers (7-6) has allowed just six runs in 33 1/3 innings over his last five starts, walking six and striking out 24. Three of those outings have come against potential playoff teams in the Red Sox, Astros and A's. His earned run average has dropped from 4.29 to 3.49 in that span.

With a handful of scouts in attendance -- and the Red Sox reportedly watching closely -- Fiers kept it up by holding one of baseball's most productive offenses to seven singles while striking out six, flummoxing dangerous hitters with a low-90s fastball.

"I think he had a little extra zip on his fastball today," catcher said. "And we used that very well, especially with two strikes."

That fastball drew nine swinging strikes, eight called strikes and lots of soft contact. He used three consecutive fastballs to strike out twice, including with runners at the corners in the fifth inning.

"He hides the ball really well," Detroit manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He has a big, long arm coming over the top. He also has great arm speed with his pitches. He can throw a great changeup right out of the same delivery that he throws a fastball, and you really can't pick it up. He's been doing it a long time. I've seen him do it for a lot of teams. He just makes the ball disappear."

The more Fiers does that now, the more likely he is to disappear. He's not an ace for a contender, nor is he the kind of up-and-coming, controllable young arm teams covet. But with veteran experience and another season of control -- he's arbitration-eligible this winter -- he can appeal to a team looking to fill out its rotation.

"Pitching in the playoffs, pitching in a World Series, trying to win a World Series, I think that's everyone's goal here in baseball," Fiers said. "It's always more fun when you win and you're on a team that's fighting for that. But like I've said, I love it here. My first year here, and these guys are great. I love playing with them and competing with them."

The Tigers had been shut out in three of Fiers' previous five starts, and had topped three runs in just five of 15 games this month. Former Red Sox prospect topped that number with a pair of two-out swings, doubling home two runs with a second-inning drive into the left-field corner off lefty starter (1-3) before adding a two-run homer in the sixth inning off .

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED

Speaking of former Red Sox: Six of Boston's seven hits off Fiers came after the third trip through the order, including back-to-back one-out singles from and with one out in the seventh. Alex Wilson, a former Red Sox reliever who landed in Detroit four years ago in the trade, replaced Fiers and induced an inning-ending double play from Bogaerts.

SOUND SMART

Both of Iglesias' two-RBI hits scored , who hadn't scored twice in a game since Aug. 15, 2017, and hadn't scored twice in a game without hitting a homer since July 17 of that season.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS

, playing his second game since returning from the disabled list, nearly had his first home run since June 10. But Betts, playing right field Saturday with back in center, brought back the opposite-field loft with a leaping catch at the wall, reaching over the top for the grab.

HE SAID IT

"Maybe I was just mad that J.D. wasn't in there, kind of ducking me today. We've been talking about it all year, and I think he told [Red Sox manager Alex] Cora to take a day off. I wasn't very pleased with that." -- Fiers, on not facing Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez, his old teammate at Nova Southeastern University. Martinez is 7-for-14 with two doubles and two home runs lifetime against him.

UP NEXT

(3-2, 3.31 ERA) rejoins the Tigers' rotation in place of the injured Fulmer as the three-game series against the Red Sox concludes Sunday with a 1:10 p.m. ET matinee at Comerica Park. Boston will counter with Chris Sale (10-4, 2.23).