SEATTLE – Like his other three starts this season, Seattle Mariners pitcher Doug Fister was nearly foiled by the team’s offense Tuesday night at Safeco Field.
Not in the lack-of-run-support way that Fister had become accustomed. This time, the Mariners batted around and scored four runs in the first inning.
But Fister sat through that long half inning – delightfully, considering the Mariners had scored only three runs total in his other starts – and took a while to shake off the frost on a cold night.
He gave up a walk, two singles and a run in the second before he reached full operating temperature.
What followed was an efficient performance by both Fister and the offense in a 13-3 victory when the Mariners took advantage of Detroit’s wildness by drawing 11 walks.
Besides that first-inning spree – when Tigers starter Phil Coke walked four, the defense behind him made an error and the Mariners got all of one hit, a two-run single by Chris Gimenez – Fister pitched his best game of the season and finally got a victory.
He allowed five hits and two runs in 6 1/3 innings, setting a career high with seven strikeouts.
“He’s thrown the ball well all year,” manager Eric Wedge said. “It’s good that we could jump out early. He did a good job maintaining the same mindset. He did a good job moving his fastball around, whether it be in and out or up and down, and he dropped that breaking ball in there, too. He’s a tough competitor out there and you saw that come to the surface when he needed to.”
Fister also walked two, matching his season high, but that was nothing compared with the Tigers’ pitchers, who worked as though the plate was jumping around.
Coke, Enrique Gonzalez, Al Alburquerque and Brad Thomas combined to walk 11 Mariners, who’ve walked an American League-high 79 times this season.
A crowd of 12,411 – just four more than the Safeco Field record low set last week – witnessed a game that wasn’t all wildness and walks.
The Mariners’ 15 hits set a season high, passing the 11 hits they’d accomplished twice this season. They raised their puny team batting average from .217 to .229.
“It was nice to see the guys break out today,” Wedge said. “We put up some quality at-bats, timely hitting and two-out knocks.”
Ichiro Suzuki, who entered the game with a .250 average, went 4 for 5 with a walk, two RBIs and three runs. He’s now batting .286.
Chone Figgins went 3 for 4 with a walk, a sacrifice fly, four RBIs and three runs. He entered the game batting .150 and raised it to .188.
“Those two guys up top, they’re the ones who need to get it going,” Wedge said. “You’ve seen both of them start to move in the right direction.”
Michael Saunders, batting .182 entering the game, went 3 for 5, scored twice and pushed his average to .237.
And Gimenez, the backup catcher who started at first base after Justin Smoak left the team on bereavement leave (his father died Tuesday) went 2 for 3 with two walks. That included his key two-run, two-out single after it appeared the Tigers might wiggle out of the first inning by allowing only two runs.
“For Chris to get that knock for us, it was a difference-maker early in the ballgame,” Wedge said.
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