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DETROIT — Jim Leyland has managed three franchises in the postseason and won a World Series in Florida.
He’s never gone into October with a pitching combination like this.
Doug Fister pitched eight strong innings as the Detroit Tigers routed Cleveland 14-0 Monday night, allowing him to keep pace with Justin Verlander.
Verlander and Fister, who are scheduled to start the first two games of Detroit’s first-round playoff series, finished the regular season with a combined 14-0 record and 1.61 ERA since August 16.
“I’ve never had anything like that before,” Leyland said. “14-0? Never.”
Fister, who allowed three singles while striking out nine, has been even better than the Cy Young favorite in the stretch, going 7-0 with a 0.65 ERA in his last eight outings. Fister, one of baseball’s most cerebral pitchers, isn’t about to explain the streak.
“Things haven’t changed,” he said. “It’s still the same mindset, the same approach, the same attack and everything else. Things have just fallen our way.”
Fister (11-13), who was picked up in a six-player deal with Seattle on July 30, has now gone 20 innings without walking a batter.
“His command is amazing,” said catcher Alex Avila, who drove in three runs. “It’s easy to catch him, because he throws so many strikes. He’s putting everything where he wants it right now. It feels great going into the playoffs with two of the best pitchers in baseball right now.”
Victor Martinez, who has been to the postseason with Cleveland and Boston, thinks this might be his best chance at winning a World Series.
“It’s definitely a great feeling to be going into the playoffs like this,” he said. “With those two guys pitching like this, the rest of our pitchers and our lineup, we’ve got a chance to do some great things.”
Ubaldo Jimenez (4-4), another pitcher the Tigers looked at before acquiring Fister, gave up six runs on nine hits and three walks in five innings.
“I was getting into hitter’s counts and they were taking advantage,” he said. “That’s a powerful lineup, and they’ve got guys who can hurt you on every pitch.”
Jimenez finished the year with a 2-3 record and a 6.35 ERA against Detroit.
“Eventually, he’s going to have to figure them out,” Indians manager Manny Acta said. “We see them 18 times a year.”
The Tigers took a 1-0 lead on Ryan Raburn’s RBI triple in the second, then scored three times in the third. With one out, Will Rhymes singled. Jimenez retired Don Kelly, but Dmitri Young and Miguel Cabrera singled to make it 2-0. Martinez walked, loading the bases, and Alex Avila hit a two-run double.
Fister didn’t allow a runner until Asdrubal Cabrera’s two-out single in the fourth, and the Indians didn’t get a runner into scoring position until Ezequiel Carrera reached second on a single and an error with one out in the eighth.
“He works quick, he’s got a heavy sinker and a cutter,” Lou Marson said. “We had nothing for him, to be honest.”
By that point, Martinez had given the Tigers a 5-0 lead with an RBI double in the fifth, and then scored Detroit’s sixth run on Avila’s base hit.
The Tigers put the game away with eight runs on nine hits in the eighth, highlighted by a long 3-run homer by Young, another midseason acquistion. Detroit’s first seven batters of the inning got hits before Omir Santos, hitting for Avila, struck out.
NOTES: Third base umpire Manny Gonzalez was hit in the right shin by the barrel of Shelley Duncan’s broken bat on a fifth-inning groundout. Gonzalez was checked briefly by Tigers trainer Kevin Rand, but stayed in the game. ... Miguel Cabrera had three hits to raise his AL-leading batting average to .343. ... Before the game, Leyland said he was “worried” about the postseason status of 3B Wilson Betemit, who has been out since Sept. 16 with a sore knee, and that he does not expect Carlos Guillen (calf) to be ready for the first round. ... Indians reliever Corey Kluber, making his third career appearance, hit Kelly and Young with back-to-back pitches in the sixth inning, and nearly hit Kelly again in the eighth.