Fiers' stock rising as he blanks Red Sox and posts 5th straight quality start

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Jose Iglesias (1) of the Detroit Tigers celebrates with Victor Martinez (41) of the Detroit Tigers after hitting a two-run home run against the Boston Red Sox during the sixth inning.

Detroit — Mike Fiers was asked why he thought his fastball had a little more jump to it Saturday. He thought about it for a second and then got a wry smile on his face.

"Maybe I was just mad that J.D. wasn't in there," he said, referencing Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez who sat out after crashing into the wall at Comerica Park Friday night. "We've been talking about this all year. I think he told (Red Sox manager) Alex Cora to give him a day off. I wasn't very pleased with that."

Fiers and Martinez were teammates at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Over their big-league careers, Martinez is 7-for-12 against Fiers, with a pair of home runs. 

"He's gotten me quite a few times," Fiers said. "But I felt really good today."

Fiers was good Saturday, and if he's not careful, he is going to mess around and get himself traded. To a contender.

With the non-waiver trade deadline 10 days away, Fiers made his fifth straight quality start Saturday, pitching 6⅓ shutout innings against the most productive offensive team in baseball, helping the Tigers to a 5-0 win over the Boston Red Sox.

"Boston has scored one run in two games and that's hard to do," Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire about a Red Sox lineup that leads baseball in runs scored. "That says a lot about our pitching staff. They have thrown the ball very well against a very good hitting team.

"I'm proud of that fact and I tip my hat to our pitchers." 

This was not a flash performance by Fiers. In his previous four starts, he gave up single runs to Oakland, Toronto and Texas, and three runs at Houston — good-hitting teams all.  

BOX SCORE: Tigers 5, Red Sox 0

"I thought he had some extra zip on his fastball today," catcher John Hicks said. "And we used that very well, especially with two strikes. We threw that fastball up in the zone and got a lot of swings and misses with that."

Fiers ended up striking out six, all with a fastball that ranged in velocity from 89 to 92 mph. He allowed seven hits, all singles, six of those came from the fifth inning on — when Fiers was facing the lineup for a third and fourth time.

"Just great defense behind me tonight," Fiers said. "I challenged them, let them put the ball in play and tried to make them swing the bats."

He threw 15 strikes in his first 17 pitches. Seventeen of the 29 batters he faced either reached base or were out in three pitches or less. 

"We were trying to set stuff up," Hicks said. "And we felt like we set up the two-strike heater really well. We got them looking soft then throw the fastball and surprise them. He's got a high arm angle and that fastball looks like it's coming down, and it never does.

"It tough for hitters to lay off of that." 

Of his 99 pitches, 49 were fastballs. He got nine swings and misses and seven called strikes with it. All six of his strikeouts came on the fastball. The most impressive one ended the fifth inning.

Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi reached with two out hits, both on off-speed pitches. But he went back to the fastball against Xander Bogaerts, striking him out on three pitches — 90, 91 and 91 mph.  

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"I did everything I could to keep them off-balance," Fiers said. "That's a really good lineup with a lot of great hitters. It's a tough lineup to get through. But we played great baseball today.

"We did everything well to beat them and that's how you have to play to beat those guys."

He did get some stellar defense. Left-fielder JaCoby Jones saved two runs with a brilliant running catch at the wall in left-center off Jackie Bradley, Jr., to end the sixth inning.

Fiers was pulled after giving up one-out singles to Betts and Benintendi in the seventh and he left to a rousing, standing ovation. But reliever Alex Wilson saved the shutout, getting Bogaerts to hit into a crisply-executed 5-4-3 double-play.

Third baseman Jeimer Candelario had to range far to his glove side to snag the ball. Second baseman Niko Goodrum made a quick turn and threw a bullet to first base to get Bogaerts by a half-step.

"Good play by Candy and Goody turned the living fire out of it," Gardenhire said. "A lot of good things happened tonight."

Including a four-RBI game from shortstop Jose Iglesias, just the second of his career.

He ripped a two-out, two-run double in the second inning against Red Sox lefty starter Brian Johnson. Then in a three-run sixth inning, he hit his third home run of the season, a two-out, two-run liner into the Tigers’ bullpen in left field off reliever Tyler Thornburg.

"It was a feel-good win and we needed it," Gardenhire said.

Fiers, meanwhile, has certainly heard the trade chatter. He and Francisco Liriano have both drawn some interest. 

"I am just pitching for the Detroit Tigers," Fiers said. "I am trying to focus on every start, every fifth day and give it everything I got. Whatever happens, happens. You see it, you see your name pop up here and there. It happens all the time.

"I just have to keep my mind focused on baseball and pitching."

He's come a long way since last year, though, when he was left off the Astros postseason roster after they acquired Justin Verlander from the Tigers. He's gone from being discarded to sought-after.

"I don't know if I am prepared for it, but whether I go to a different team or not, it's still baseball," Fiers said. "I'd just be playing in a different city ... Pitching the playoffs and trying to win a World Series is everyone's goal in baseball. And it's always more fun when you win and you are on a team fighting for that.

"But I love it here. This is my first year here and these guys are great. I love playing with them and competing with them."