Doug Fister shut down the Cleveland Indians by tossing a one-hitter to lead the Boston Red Sox to a 9-1 victory Tuesday night.
The night did not begin smoothly for Boston Red Sox starter Doug Fister. He hung a breaking ball over the middle of the plate on his third pitch of the game, which Cleveland Indians star Francisco Lindor hammered into the right field seats.
Everything after that was brilliant.
The leadoff home run turned out to be the only hit Fister would allow on the night in a complete game gem. He walked a pair and hit a batter, erasing two of those base runners on double plays. After Lindor took him deep, Fister would breeze through the rest of the night with an efficient 114 pitches.
Fister is the third pitcher in the modern era to throw a one-hitter with the only hit being a leadoff home run, joining Jack McDowell in 1991 and Robin Roberts in 1954.
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He struck out six despite getting only six swinging strikes. Cleveland hitters watched 27 called strikes pass by them. Fister’s 7.52 K/9 is in the bottom half of the American League (minimum 50 innings). He’s not blowing pitches by anyone, but can freeze hitters when he hits his location.
The one mistake to Lindor aside, Fister thrived when keeping the ball low in the zone, inducing 11 ground ball outs. Fister’s 45.5 ground ball percentage would rank 10th in the league if he had enough innings to qualify. He needs to attack the bottom of the strike zone because when the ball is hit in the air against him, bad things happen. Fister’s 13.2 percent HR/FB would put him among the 15 highest qualified pitchers in the league, trailing only Rick Porcello in the Red Sox rotation.
The venue may have played a small part in Fister’s success. There were a couple of deep fly balls to left field that would have clanked off the Green Monster at Fenway Park. In Cleveland’s Progressive Field they were harmless warning track outs.
While he is adept at inducing ground balls, Fister’s low strikeout rate leaves plenty of room for fly balls. He’s actually allowed more fly balls (80) than ground balls (78). That can be a problem at Fenway, where he owns a 5.17 ERA and opponents are batting .298 against him this season. Without the shallow left field wall to aim for on the road, hitters are batting only .183 against him.
Perhaps he’s found a comfort zone facing this Indians team. Prior to last night, Fister’s best start of the season came against Cleveland on July 31. He went 7 2/3 innings, allowing only two runs on five hits. The former Detroit Tiger has some familiarity with facing the Indians, although their lineup has had plenty of turnover since he last pitched in that division back in 2013.
Fister’s surprising effort will go a long way toward keeping him in the rotation until David Price returns from the disabled list, but let’s keep our expectations in check. He’s still a back of the rotation option who happened to have a spectacular start. His 4.78 ERA and 1.42 WHIP are similar to what he posted with the Houston Astros last season, which is a fair indicator of what he’ll provide at this stage of his career.