|Doug Fister throws for several more scoreless innings after getting nailed. (US Presswire)|
SAN FRANCISCO -- Detroit Tigers starter Doug Fister has a hard head, a tough constitution and plenty of guts. But in the cruelest possible twist in a game that isn't always fair, Fister also now has a World Series loss.
"It was a tough night," Fister said. "We obviously had a couple balls that didn't go our way.''
Or, more precisely in Fister's case, the ball the San Francisco Giants' Gregor Blanco lined off the side/back of Fister's head ricocheted into center field for a base hit.
"Squared up a changeup," is how Fister described Blanco's hit.
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But it wasn't even the first to pinball off Fister this postseason. It's like Fister has a magnet for Rawlings on him. He was nailed in the wrist in his ALCS start.
Not that either baseball fazed him.
Fister threw several more scoreless innings after getting nailed this time, just like last time, in that crazy Game 1 of the ALCS, when then-Tigers closer Jose Valverde gave up two home runs to blow Fister's big lead, Derek Jeter got hurt, and the Yankees started their disintegration.
The only run Fister allowed this time actually scored several batters after Hunter Pence's single to start the seventh inning finally knocked Fister from the game, well more than an hour and 4 1/3 innings after Blanco lined the ball off Fister's head. Still, it was Fister's loss, a 2-0 game that, symmetrically, gave the Giants a 2-zip lead in games.
Cruelly, Fister recalled every pitch, every roll and every ball that didn't go the Tigers' way. But of course, the fact he boarded the plane with all his faculties and barely any symptoms is also a blessing.
"I'm thankful I'm OK," he decided.
The ball stung, no question. But he has only "a little bump," he said. He expected further tests, but anticipated no issues.
"I'm seeing no stars," is the way he put it.
"Scary" is the way Tigers star Miguel Cabrera put it.
Other Tiger people, all worried, ran to the mound to administer the first tests. He scored perfectly on all the questions longtime Tigers trainer Kevin Rand posed to him.
"Where are you?" asked Rand.
"San Francisco," Fister answered.
"What game is it?"
"Game No. 2."
"What's the situation?"
"Two outs," Fister said, before adding, "Let's get the third."
If this were Jeopardy, he would be in the champions' bracket.
"It was kind of comical because Doug was right on with everything," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "But I was scared to death when it happened."
Fister's dozen or so family members and friends in attendance surely were most scared of all. But after Fister met with them for several minutes after the game, his dad decided he was fortunate the ball found the right spot -- his head.
Fister's head isn't just hard, it was clear.
Afterward, he decided the problem is that he needs to learn to get his glove up quicker. The mind was still quick, and that's what matters.
He never thought for a second there was a chance he was coming out of the game. He never gave Tigers people leeway to consider it, either.
"For me, it's just a matter of a mindset," he said. "You're not going to take me out of that game."
As Fister recalled later (another good sign), he walked the next batter, then retired the next 12 Giants before Pablo Sandoval singled. He didn't come out of the game until he had thrown 114 pitches.
Tigers reliever Drew Smyly didn't help matters with some spotty control, and the Giants soon led 1-0, thanks to a double-play grounder by Brandon Crawford with the bases loaded and nobody out. Leyland probably should have played the infield in in a 0-0 game with only six outs left for the Tigers and Cabrera not guaranteed of another at-bat in regulation.
But that's the way it's going for the Tigers. And for destiny's darlings, the Giants. Every close play is San Francisco's. Every good call is San Francisco's. Every roll, theirs, too.
"The Giants are on a roll right now,'' Fister conceded.
Blanco's attempt at a sacrifice bunt in the seventh became a base hit to load the bags with no outs when the ball refused to curl foul, as it was expected to.
"The ball doesn't always bounce your way," Fister said. "The Giants are on a roll right now."
But just because he suffered one of the unluckiest defeats in Series history, and just because he's now 0-1 in this postseason despite sporting a 1.40 ERA, well, that doesn't faze Fister.
"It's not a good feeling to be down 0-2. But that's OK," he decided.
"We're going to win three, and come back here. We've got a family here. Guys play together, and they pull together.''
Fister was sharp on the mound and off it. The kid has everything going for him -- except, of course, luck.