Detroit — Tigers manager Jim Leyland said before Game 4 of the American League Division Series on Tuesday that Game 1 winner Max Scherzer would be available in relief, if needed.
Doug Fister, however, made sure Scherzer wasn’t needed — at least early — going six innings to keep the Tigers close until the offense broke things open in the eighth inning and sealed an 8-6 win, forcing a deciding Game 5 on Thursday in Oakland.
“It certainly was eventful and it’s a tremendous thing for us as a team to go through something like that and battle for so long and just come to life, both defense and offense,” said Fister, who allowed three runs. “It’s a matter of everybody playing together and that’s what we do.”
Fister ran into trouble early, allowing a leadoff triple to Coco Crisp, who scored on Jed Lowrie’s RBI single in the first inning. And things didn’t get easier the second inning, as Fister worked out of another jam, stranding runners on first and third.
Through two innings, Fister had thrown 50 pitches and looked to be on the ropes.
“It’s one of those things where it’s the same game plan — attack and try to get as much bat contact early as possible and get as deep as I can,” Fister said. “You have to keep battling through no matter the situation is or what pitch it is.
“The first couple innings were a little bit of a struggle for me but after that, I got into a rhythm a little bit. There were some goods and bads.”
Among the bad was allowing hits to the leadoff hitter the first three innings.
In the fifth inning, Fister gave up a one-out single to Crisp, who scored on Lowrie’s two-run home run that gave the A’s a 3-0 lead.
“It’s a 0-0 ballgame always when I’m pitching; that’s my mindset,” Fister said. “For our hitters, they’re putting together some good at-bats and it just wasn’t coming through. All of a sudden, they broke out and let it loose.”
The Tigers offense broke through for three runs in the fifth, and Fister responded with a 1-2-3 inning, setting the stage for Scherzer.
“I had no idea,” Fister said about his availability to pitch. “Not until they said Scherzer’s in. It’s one of those things I’m staying focused.”
And he responded, escaping from a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the eighth.
“Everybody in the dugout, everybody in the stands — everybody anywhere rooting for the Tigers — is pulling for him,” Fister said. “Everybody is doing everything they can.
“Physically, we’re not out there helping but we’re right there behind him.”