BOSTON — Doug Fister started his outing at Fenway Park Monday by walking the first hitter and hitting the second.
He then got a double play.
He started his second inning by walking the first two batters.
He then got another double play.
Fister, rebounding from a terrible start his last time out, went on to pitch seven shutout innings to help the Detroit Tigers to a 3-0 victory over the Boston Red Sox.
“This is what I think — I’m probably crazy. People have talked about this park for 100 years and I think at the beginning of the game he was being a little bit careful, and I thought he got more aggressive as the game went on and I thought it helped him,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said after his team won for the fourth time in the last five games.
“Early on, I think he was being careful like a thousand pitchers have done before him. It’s hard to convince him that you have to be aggressive in this ballpark because if you don’t you’ll get burnt. I don’t have an idea if that’s accurate, but that’s what it seemed like to me. You have to pitch aggressive to a club like this. If you don’t they’ll beat your brains out.”
Said Fister (12-7): “It was pretty frustrating, but I just had to get back at it and attack the hitters.”
Fister, reached for 13 hits and seven runs in a home loss to the Oakland A’s last week, allowed just four hits.
Andy Dirks snapped a scoreless tie with an RBI triple and then scored in the seventh inning.
The Tigers, playing their third straight game without star Miguel Cabrera (abdomen injury), won the opener of a series that could be a postseason matchup. Detroit leads the American League Central and Boston is on top in the East.
The win also moved the Tigers to within a half-game of Boston for the best record in the league.
Fister was supported by three double plays, two off the bat of Dustin Pedroia and all three featuring the slick glove work of former Red Sox shortstop Jose Iglesias. The third was an acrobatic 6-3 double play turned by the rookie shortstop.
“When people make plays like that, you can’t practice those,” Leyland said. “That’s just athleticism and flexibility, agility, whatever you want to call it. You just can’t practice plays like that. If someone says they practice those, they’re lying.”
As far as his new shortstop and his glove work, Fister said, “He’s all over the diamond. It’s such a blessing to have him. The things he brings to this team is just astounding.”
Three relievers finished the shutout. Jose Veras pitched around a leadoff double in the ninth for his second save with Detroit (21 overall). Closer Joaquin Benoit rested after working three of the previous four days.
John Lackey, who has been the hard-luck member of the Boston staff all year, was again the victim of non-support. The Sox have been shut out 11 times and Lackey has been the starter in six of those. His teammates have failed to score while he’s been in the game in six of his last 11 starts, and they have scored 13 runs in the first six innings of those 11 games.
“It’s hard to explain. It just kind of happens,” said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who hit into the other double play.
Despite a 3.22 ERA, Lackey fell to 8-12 in the season following Tommy John surgery.
“Honestly, this is about as good as I’ve ever pitched, man,” he said. “I’m probably better now than I ever have been.”
He’s happy to be a part of a team that has already won 82 games, 13 more than last year — when he watched.
“I didn’t know if I wanted to be a part of last year a whole lot, sometimes,” he said after falling to 1-6 in his last nine starts. “Seriously, it’s nice to be on a good team, playing good baseball, with a good group of guys, for sure.”
The Red Sox, who got three of their six hits (two doubles) from Daniel Nava, lost for only the second time in their last nine games.
NOTES: With Cabrera out, Prince Fielder batted third for the first time since Aug. 3, 2010. He had a sacrifice fly in the eighth. … The Tigers hope Cabrera can return by Wednesday’s series finale. … CF Jacoby Ellsbury (thumb) and RF Shane Victorino (hip/hamstring), who left Sunday’s game with their injuries, both played. … Detroit RHP Max Scherzer takes his second stab at becoming the second pitcher ever to start a season 20-1 (Roger Clemens, 2001) when he faces LHP Jon Lester Tuesday night. … Iglesias, who came to Detroit in the three-way deadline deal that brought RHP Jake Peavy to Boston, got a warm reception from the crowd and ripped a double on the first pitch he saw from Lackey. He was robbed of a single by a diving Ellsbury in the fifth and flied out in the eighth. … Boston RHP Clay Buchholz will have his third, and what is expected to be, final rehab start pushed from Wednesday to Thursday because of the birth of his second child, expected Wednesday.