Doug Fister has only pitched in the World Series once, and it is not difficult for him to choose his strongest recollection. “The line drive off the head would be the most memorable part,” Fister said.
Tuesday night, Fister may have a flashback. He’ll pitch at AT&T Park for only the second time, and the first since Game 2 of the 2012 World Series. And he’ll face Madison Bumgarner, the left-hander who outdueled him in the San Francisco Giants’ 2-0 victory over the Detroit Tigers, the second leg of their four-game sweep.
“It was quite the time,” Fister said. “There was a lot of emotion playing into it. It’s where we play 162 games to be. That’s what sticks out in my mind.”
Fister pitched into the seventh inning, trading zeroes with Bumgarner for six innings. Hunter Pence smacked a single off him to lead off the seventh, just the fourth hit Fister had allowed all game. Manager Jim Leyland pulled him, and Detroit’s bullpen allowed the run to score. When Bumgarner combined with two relievers for a shutout, Fister took the loss.
“It’s always nice to perform well, have some success,” Fister said. “But at the same time, ultimately, I’m let down because we lost that series. It leaves a little bitter taste in your mouth.”
The most lasting memory for Fister, and for most who watched the game, came in the second inning. Gregor Blanco ripped a line drive up the middle. Fister turned his head to the left and tried to snare it with it his glove, but the ball bounced off his head. It had enough speed to land in center field after the deflection.
“I thought for sure they were going to take me out, just for the fact of safety reasons,” Fister said. “But I wanted to stay in. I was trying to fight for it from the get-go. They obviously tested me out numerous times and felt that I was okay. At the time, I had a little bump. But there was no pain or headaches. For me, it was a no-brainer. I wanted to stay out there and pitch.”
Said Bumgarner: “I wasn’t focusing on it too much, but I knew he got hit in the head. They left him, so I knew it didn’t get him as bad as it probably could have.”
Fister never dealt with any of the stress many pitchers feel after taking a liner to the head. He had no hesitation pitching that night or since. Somebody brought up the liner Monday afternoon, and Fister happily showed it to them on YouTube.
“It wasn’t scary at all,” Fister said. “I went back and was seeing it [Monday]. Somebody else was asking about it, so I showed them the video. It’s not something that bothers me. Even getting back up on the mound afterwards, it’s part of the game. I see it as, I need to be working on my glove skills and getting my glove on it. It was something that I took into the offseason and tried to work with it.”
Wait. Worked on glove skills? How, exactly, did Fister do that?
“Having somebody hit a fungo at you,” Fister said. “Get close to a wall and throw a ball at the wall. Just working on glove-hand reaction times. Little things, just make yourself react a little better.”
Now that is interesting, and it reveals quite a bit about Fister. It also sounds pretty dangerous.
“You don’t want to throw it real hard,” Fister said. “But if you miss it, it’s enough to let you know.”
So if another liner comes screaming toward Fister on Tuesday night, he figures to have a better chance of stopping it. He’s looking forward to pitching at AT&T Park for the second time for another reason. The stadium is only two hours from his hometown of Merced, Calif. He plans to have 20 family members and friends in the seats.
Otherwise, Fister did not attach much sentiment to his rematch. He only took note of Bumgarner to prepare for him as a hitter. Again, that reveals a little something about Fister.
FROM THE POST
In their best game of the season, the Nationals declared themselves a contender with a 9-2 thrashing of the red-hot Giants.
FROM YESTERDAY’S JOURNAL
NATS MINOR LEAGUES
Syracuse 6, Buffalo 5: Sandy Leon went 3 for 3 with a walk. Zach Walters went 1 for 4 with a home run. Tyler Moore went 1 for 2 with a walk and a homer.
Harrisburg was off.
Potomac 5, Carolina 4: Justin Miller went 3 for 4. Brett Brach allowed three runs in five innings on seven hits and two walks, striking out one. Reliever Derek Self earned the win after being named to the Carolina League all-star team.
Hagerstown 5, Lakewood 3 (12 innings): Lucas Giolito allowed no runs in four innings on no hits and three walks, striking out six. Spencer Kieboom went 3 for 5 with a double. Drew Ward went 1 for 4 with a triple and two walks.