UPDATED WITH POST-GAME QUOTES
Not a bad time for Doug Fister to throw 7 1/3 innings of one-run ball against one of the more feared offenses in baseball. Fister got knocked around by the Royals to the tune of three home runs his last start and you don’t need to be a genius to figure out he was getting squeezed a bit in the rotation.
The Mariners are going to add Brandon Morrow shortly. Garrett Olson will be a likely addition as well. Jason Vargas got called up today. There will be a ton of guys looking for starts in September and Fister was going to have to step up and show he could do more than the five-inning minimum. That those early outings he had weren’t a fluke.
He went a long way towards doing that in a 2-1 victory tonight.
Fister kept the game tied until the seventh, retiring 13 of 14 at one point. Jose Lopez then hit a two-out double in the seventh to give Seattle the lead for good.
So, what did Fister do differently from the last time out against KC?
“I kept the focus of doing the little things,” he said. “My focus in the bullpen was to keep the ball down. And it carried on over into the game.”
Fister is “keeping in mind that it’s a game, but it’s also a business.”
In other words, he knows this is an opportunity he’s been handed. It’s not unlimited and he’s trying to make the most of it. He calls it “a dream come true.”
For the Mariners, it has been. Few would have guessed he could handle the New York Yankees and Angels the way he now has just two weeks apart.
“We talk about belief systems around here a lot,” Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said. “But it’s awfully easy to believe in a guy like Doug Fister, especially after a couple of performances like he’s had in his young career already.
“Shutting down the New York Yankees and shutting down this lineup, just a tremendous job.”
The Mariners said they had a different feel to their offense, even though the additions of Adrian Beltre and Ichiro back in the lineup didn’t yield much in the way of tangible results. Seattle had scored just one run in its last 24 innings before Jose Lopez doubled home Franklin Gutierrez in the seventh.
“I’d missed a lot of pitches the first three at-bats,” Lopez said. “That last at-bat, I wanted to concentrate hard and put the ball to the gap.”
He missed the gap, but did get it the opposite way to the right field corner.
“I’ll take the right field line, too,” he said with a laugh.
Angels right fielder Bobby Abreu tried to cut the ball off, to keep Gutierrez at third.
“I could have made that play,” Abreu said. “If I had cut it off, he would have held at third. I got there quick, but I just didn’t squeeze the glove. As soon as I went to close it, I bobbled it.”
The run scored and Fister had his lead. But he wasn’t out of the woods yet. Wakamatsu sent him back out on 102 pitches in the eighth and Maicer izturis promptly led off with a double. That brought .305-hitting Erick Aybar to the plate, needing to at least get the tying run to third with one out. Instead, he popped out foul down the left field line and Izturis was forced to hold at second.
Two flyouts later, the inning was done.
“I would have liked Erick to pull the ball there, and maybe get a hit,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “At the very least, when he’s done hitting, you want the runner on third base. I think he did get a little bit anxious and went after a fastball away that’s going to be tough to pull. Obviously, he didn’t put the swing on it he needed and didn’t wait for the pitch to do what we needed him to do.
Think this game didn’t matter to the Angels? They had the Texas Rangers dead and buried and the AL West all but wrapped up with a six-game lead. But the Rangers swept a double-header tonight and picked up 1 1/2 games. They still have a pulse with 4 1/2 weeks to go. Not a great one, but the Angels just let them creep back to the fringes of this division race.
Should be an interesting finale tomorrow.